PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Julie Benois-Sage told KOIN 6 News she opened her craft gallery on NE 16th Avenue and Alberta Street three years ago because of Last Thursday.
“It’s brought a lot of people here,” she said. “It put us on the map, made the neighborhood proud of itself, provided a sense of community.”
But now the future of the Last Thursday event in northeast Portland is in the air, with the announcement that the nonprofit working to run the event plans to step down.
“As a musician that plays it, it gives us a great deal of support and exposure that we wouldn’t be able to get otherwise,” said Allen Clayton. “It’s a tremendous institution for the musicians in this town.”
Last Thursday is a monthly event on NE Alberta Street — attended by thousands on the last Thursday of Portland’s warmer months. But neighbors have complained about crowds and noise during the street fair, and so the city of Portland tightened its street-closure permit requirements earlier this year.
But as the city and organizers continue to battle over complaints, one side is throwing in the towel.
The group Friends of Last Thursday, which has been trying to run things in a way that makes everyone happy, announced Sunday it is stepping down. The group reports it’s stepping down “in light of recent demands from the City, in order to issue a permit” — even after initial reports that things “doing well.”
“Complying with the presented demands would compromise the integrity of the relationships FoLT has developed with the businesses on Alberta St and all participants in Last Thursday,” the Friends of Last Thursday wrote in a Sunday news release. “The most egregious of these demands is a force ending of the event at 9 p.m. and opening the street enforced by the presence of pressurized water hoses.”
Friends of Last Thursday held an 11 a.m. Monday press conference at 2724 NE Alberta St. to discuss “the responsibility and facilitation of the event logistics for Last Thursday, June 27, 2013.”
The permit changes, as of May 30, required 15 certified security guards, two portable toilets on every other block, a 10 p.m. shut down, and all music acts to comply with city noise ordinances.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales’ spokesperson, Dana Haynes, told KOIN 6 News organizers fell short of the requirements of their permit last month. On June 27, he said, the city wants to try some things to make the festival “work better.”
The latest restrictions by the city also exclude NE 27th through 30th avenues.
“We’ve been fighting for quite awhile,” said Maquette Reeverts with Friends of Last Thursday, the volunteer group that organizes the event. “But when we’re given these restrictions a week before the event, without any sort of warning, we’re just unable.”
That means anyone showing up Thursday on Alberta likely won’t find designated street closures, security, extra portable toilets or volunteer staff
“As a business owner that’s really upsetting,” Benois-Sage said. “I mean, I’ll close and go rather than stay here for the chaos.”
The mayor’s office says they’re willing to work with organizers to come up with a solution.
“If it’s going to happen,” said Haynes, “the mayor’s philosophy is let’s make it the best possible thing. Let’s make it good for the business community, for the neighbors who live here, for the taxpayers, and for the artists who are supposed to be the first benefitters from this.”
As for the pressurized water hoses, Haynes said the street has to be cleaned following the event — it’s just a matter of when.
Those who have grown to rely on Last Thursday said, one way or another, it will continue.
“What are they going to do, run the people off the streets with police?” Clayton said. “I think it’s kind of a cultural institution and will continue to be — whether the city OKs it or not.”
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