Downtown Businesses Vs. On The Waterfront

By: Laura Gibbs
By: Laura Gibbs

The countdown to Illinois' largest music festival is down to one month and six days. On The Waterfront is a 3-day festival that draws thousands of people to downtown Rockford. But right now there is quite a divide among downtown liquor establishments and festival organizers.

It's an event that we count on every year to finish off the summer. It's also an event that many not-for-profit agencies count on for cash. Since 1986 the festival has raised over $8.3 million to support organizations. But this year OTW organizers fear they'll have increased expenses and a decrease in revenue.

OTW Board Chair Kim Casey says, "All the expenses and risks we believe is on the Waterfront and its not-for-profit partners."

Downtown businesses are pushing a city committee to revise the liquor ordinance. It would allow patrons to leave a bar or restaurant with an open bottle. Right now bar patrons have to stay put and finish their drink. If not owners face a consequence.

Brio owner Paul Sletten tells 23 News, “There's this small invisible line that says you are a part of the festival but you're not really. We just want to feel like we are included."

Waterfront officials worry that those not-for-profits who sell beer and liquor will suffer. Not to mention the added insurance risks.

Casey states, "Our insurance company has indicated that the premium could increase as much as $15,000 with a regular premium for 3 days of $62,000. That’s a big expense."

Downtown businesses say they are willing to help out with added insurance costs. Owners even agree that by no means do they want to see a price war break out. That would force festival goers to chose why they support more.

Both bars and On The Waterfront officials say beer sales have gone down over the years. Statistics show on premise consumption has decreased over the years. More people stay at home when they tip back a few.


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