Decision To End Gallery Night Not Popular At Gallery Night
Unless a new sponsor steps forward to take charge of the event, the monthly Gallery Night celebrations in downtown Pensacola will be coming to an end this fall.
It’s impossible to walk down Palafox Street on a Gallery Night without hearing a huge variety of live music being performed up and down the street. At this month’s Gallery Night, people were dancing and strolling, browsing in the stores that remained open and enjoying food and drinks from the various vendors and restaurants. They were also talking about the Downtown Improvement Board’s recent decision to end the monthly celebration. "You can come around here earlier and see families and everybody. People are walking their dogs. People have babies to adolescent children and teenagers coming out." said Becky Sherman, a lifelong Pensacola resident was sitting at an outside table with three friends enjoying the mild spring evening. She says she'll be "A little sad, because I think it's been great for the downtown area to actually start booming as far as business and you've seen a lot of things come to life because of Gallery Night. But I can understand the concern because of the after Gallery Night partying. Some of the local businesses are concerned for their property."
It was that concern and the fact that fewer businesses were paying to participate that finally caused the Downtown Improvement Board to finally pull the plug on the monthly event. John Peacock, the Chairman of the DIB says "We just think it's time to do something different. We're still going to have events, but probably not those five until midnight type of events. It does pose some problems, so we're going to do some other things to draw attention to downtown."
Peacock says he understands how much Gallery Night has done to bring people downtown over the past few years, but he feels the event has run its course. He says the hope is that after Gallery night goes away, it will be replaced by a different event. "That nine to midnight part is probably going to go away (and) we're going to call it something different. Do some things during the day to attract people during the daytime because has a lot to offer people in downtown Pensacola, too."
"I don't subscribe to the thought or the theory that it's a drunken street party and the hair on the back of my neck stands up every time I hear that." said Jim Sweida. He's the President of the Board of Blue Morning Gallery and, up until a last week, was the Chairman of the Special Events Committee of the Downtown Improvement Board. He resigned that post after the Board’s decision to end Gallery Night. "In all of the years that we've been here, and I've been here for eight years at this gallery, (we've) never had a drunken incident, never really saw any, never experienced any, and I find that those who say it's a drunken street party (either) have never been downtown on a Gallery Night, came once, maybe had a bad experience and so, of course, 'they're all that way',...and, very honestly there is a segment in the community who (believe) that even if you have one beer you're considered a drunk."
Swieda says on a typical Gallery Night about 4000 people come through the doors at the Blue Morning Gallery, bringing in a good percentage of their monthly income. Down the road at the Artel Gallery, President Suzanne Robbert says they would also take a hit once the event ends. "Well it would certainly effect out overall attendence. People learn about Artel through Gallery Night, people that might otherwise not come downtown. We average about 15 hundred people every Gallery Night, so we will feel that effect." Robbert also says that if Gallery Night does end, she would be willing to open one night a month and would hope other galleries in the city would join in.
Almost every month you’ll see the band 3 Bean Soup playing in front of the Dog House restaurant. Lead singer Jamie Weis says playing at Gallery Night over the past five years has helped the band grow a following and they’ll be sorry to see it end. "We've had many gigs come out of (Gallery Night), restaurants, all types of places. (Our business has grown) about 50 percent from where we started, it was like a sky rocket! I don't think it's a 'booze fest'. I don't think it's a bad thing. I think it brings a lot of people in and I think they should just keep it going. But, whatever they decide to do is whatever they decide to do I guess."
As far as the Downtown Improvement Board is concerned, the decision has been made and they are looking ahead. John Peacock of the DIB says there are already plans in place for the rest of the year after the final Gallery Night in September. "October is usually a big month with Oktoberfest. And hopefully we'll focus on holiday themed events from November to January, get those lights back that we had this year and focus on some events to draw people downtown both during the day and at night time during the holiday season. And then in the spring come out with something new to drive people downtown."
But between the holiday season and next spring there is another issue the DIB will be facing. They have also announced they will no longer be running the annual Pelican Drop in downtown Pensacola on New Years Eve. As of right now along with Gallery Night, no one has come forward yet to say they will take over either of those events.