New Brunswick

Saint John councillor pitches closure of uptown streets for crowd-drawing events

A Saint John city councillor wants Canterbury and Grannan streets closed to traffic over five weekends this summer, so more events can be held in the area.

Blake Armstrong believes closing streets will get more people spending time in uptown businesses

Canterbury and Grannan streets in Saint John were shut down for the last Third Shift, an art-inspired event that will happen again this August. (Mark Hemmings/Third Space Gallery)

A Saint John city councillor wants Canterbury and Grannan streets closed to traffic over five weekends this summer, so more events can be held in the area.

Coun. Blake Armstrong said he believes closing the streets on Fridays and Saturdays will get more people spending time in local businesses. 

He said he approached businesses about the idea during the East Coast Music Awards in April.

"But the whole idea for me when I went around the night of the [awards] to each and every bar and restaurant, they all were excited about getting it done," said Armstrong in an interview Tuesday on Information Morning Saint John.

"But as usual, no offence, but they were all skeptical that I could get it done."

Other city councillors were originally opposed to the idea, but Armstrong said that is no longer the case. 

He added that he would leave it with the bar owners in that district to plan events.

One event planned

Grannan Street is a fairly short uptown street that crosses Canterbury in a small, bar district that includes Picaroons General Store, the Five and Dime and Port City Royal.

In 2014, the city shut down Canterbury and Grannan streets for Third Shift, an art-inspired event that has grown in popularity. So far, Third Shift is also the only event planned for this year.

The closure of the streets was possible after city staff discovered a bylaw for street events. 

A Saint John councillor is proposing the closure of Canterbury and Grannan streets for more street events, which he says will promote movement and local businesses uptown. (Julia Wright / CBC)

The bylaw said permits can be issued by the chief of police, whereas in other cities decisions on street closures remain with city councils. 

An application has to be filled out 60 days prior to the event, or 90 days if alcohol will be served.

The event must also have insurance, plans for emergency vehicles and waste management, and a detailed list of volunteers and organizers.

But Armstrong said these things can be streamlined.

"If someone comes up with an event, even in the next two weeks, I'm sure we could streamline it and close [a street] for a special time for this year," he said.

Grows community spirit

Businesses such as the Port City Royal restaurant on Grannan Street are open to the idea of being able to have more street events, he said.

"I stand behind it, I think it's a great idea," said Jacob Lutes, chef and owner of Port City Royal.

Lutes said he witnessed a lot of community spirit during events that closed the street outside his restaurant.

Bringing more of those events to the city would help that spirit grow, he said.

"It just aids in an advanced night life that I think other cities, at least in New Brunswick, aren't really doing," said Lutes.

He said that he understands why the city needs 60 days to co-ordinate an entire street closure but added the restaurant could adapt to a closure very quickly.

The long term 

Armstrong said his proposal is about having a long-term plan to ensure that businesses can close the street when they want to hold events.

He also wants to show that city council is open to the idea.

Coun. Blake Armstrong says he wants more people visiting uptown Saint John. (Connell Smith/CBC)

Armstrong added that he isn't worried about his proposal overshadowing other events or that it may grow less popular over time.

"The idea is to get people moving," he said. "The more people passing by your door is a better chance of you getting busines.

"Nobody can have it all, but my idea is to spread it around."

With files from Information Morning Saint John

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