Tahoe City Farmers Market: What does the future hold?
October 12, 2011
TAHOE CITY, Calif. andamp;#8212; As North Shore residents prepare for the final Tahoe City Farmers Market of 2011 this Thursday, concerns from downtown businesses about potential revenue shortfalls due to its location, scheduling and parking structure continue to linger and could jeopardize the future of the market in its current form.Ever since the market moved to Commons Beach in 2005, traffic and unintended use of parking spots on Thursday mornings along Highway 28 near Commons Beach have been highly problematic, said David andamp;#8220;Johnny Bandamp;#8221; Rutter, owner of Pete andamp;#8217;Nandamp;#8217; Peters Sports Bar.andamp;#8220;We take the biggest hit here because our parking is right across the street,andamp;#8221; said Rutter. andamp;#8220;Iandamp;#8217;d like to help andamp;#8212; but canandamp;#8217;t.andamp;#8221;When asked if market customers generate business for his business and others, Rutter said andamp;#8220;definitely not,andamp;#8221; as patrons generally purchase perishable items and tend not to linger in the area.Conversely, Rutter said the communityandamp;#8217;s popular concerts at the beach are different, as crowds are willing to linger afterward for dinning and shopping.andamp;#8220;The impact to business owners on this end of town with parking has been extreme,andamp;#8221; Rutter said. andamp;#8220;Business owners said they might as well not open on Thursday mornings because people canandamp;#8217;t get in there.andamp;#8221;
Despite concerns, there are others who feel businesses downtown have too much sway in decision-making regarding the market, and that can be detrimental to its overall goal.For example, one change implemented this year on behalf of a request from the businesses was reducing the marketandamp;#8217;s hours from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. to 8 a.m. to noon to allow separation of customers who might opt to not eat lunch at downtown restaurants.In an interview this week, a former farmers market employee and North Lake Tahoe resident who asked to remain anonymous to prevent potential consequences to her employer said market vendors were told this year by the Foothill Farmerandamp;#8217;s Market Association of Placer County, who coordinates the market, not to publicly criticize the loss of hours.andamp;#8220;The whole thing is so silly because (the vendors) are providing a service to the community,andamp;#8221; the employee said, adding that fewer hours meant revenue losses for vendors, thus showing a lack of equal treatment compared to business owners. andamp;#8220;I canandamp;#8217;t think of a small business in this community that will not stay open a little later or open a little earlier for a customer.andamp;#8221;The former employee said she eventually left the market due to the tension and the request not to discuss concerns publicly when customers asked about the change in hours.andamp;#8220;You almost had to have a scripted response,andamp;#8221; the employee said.Emails and phone calls to Foothill Farmerandamp;#8217;s Market Association were not returned for comment.Farther away from Commons Beach, parking or traffic problems arenandamp;#8217;t as much a concern, said Scott Zumwalt, general manager of the Bridgetender Restaurant.andamp;#8220;I could see where there could be issues,andamp;#8221; he said. andamp;#8220;But weandamp;#8217;re not really affected by it because weandamp;#8217;re not by Commons Beach.andamp;#8221;
Brendan Madigan, president of the Tahoe City Downtown Association board, said he recently met with business owners and developed three possible options:andamp;#8226; leaving the market and its current hours as they are, andamp;#8226; obtaining permits to relocate the market at the nearby 64 Acres lot; orandamp;#8226; identifying a new undetermined location.andamp;#8220;Weandamp;#8217;re working through the potential changes to the market in terms of location and hours,andamp;#8221; Madigan said in a recent interview. andamp;#8220;Nothing has yet been finalized.andamp;#8221;Bob Bolton, director of Parks and Recreation for the Tahoe City Public Utility District andamp;#8212; which is responsible for the marketandamp;#8217;s venue andamp;#8212; said the PUD is in talks with the US Forest Service, which owns 64 Acres, for approval to begin a feasibility study to determine if the market can be held there. Once word comes, Bolton said business owners and TCDA officials will have to commit to whether or not they wish to proceed moving to the new location.The study would require a consultant, estimated to cost $10,000, to perform a traffic impact analysis of the area and secure all necessary permits, Bolton said, a cost that would be paid by TCDA and the marketandamp;#8217;s affiliates, and not TCPUD rate payers.Rutter said he would support the market if it could be relocated to 64 Acres and commended TCPUDandamp;#8217;s General Manager Cindy Gustafson and Bolton for their work to facilitate the move.andamp;#8220;Cindy and Bob have bent over backwards to represent our interests in this side of town,andamp;#8221; Rutter said.