Mayor Charlie Hales met Tuesday evening for an invite-only meeting with neighbors and businesses in Old Town to talk about the city's Entertainment District, a trial closure of six blocks on weekend nights around the area's high-density collection of clubs and bars.
The unshocking consensus? The folks who live and work in the area aren't fans.
But Portland's police seem smitten with the closure of Northwest Second to Fourth streets from Northwest Everett Street to Burnside on weekend nights and drinking holidays. (WW explored the scene in this week's Bar Guide.) They say the closures have cut back on serious crime, assaults and vandalism since they started on Dec. 28.
Hales, too, says he has a good impression of the Entertainment District, and approved a 60-day extension of the trial through the end of May. But he told neighbors there are still ways to tweak the area to make it even better.
He suggested charging for street parking after 7 pm in Old Town, which would better draw attention to the 10 pm closure time. (That, again unshockingly, drew head shakes.) He also mentioned putting tables in the closed streets so restaurants and bars could offer table service. Portable toilets to keep down public urination might also work, he said.
"I don't believe we will figure out every part of this huge issue in the next 35 days," Hales says. "But we're going to keep experimenting, rather than do what the city usually does, which is a two year planning process and figuring out every last detail. Life's too short for that."
But Old Town restaurants complain they're losing business because people are afraid to park in case they get towed. (WW reported that more than 315 cars have been towed since the closures began). Others lamented that when the Entertainment District is closed from 10 pm to 3 am, 65 parking spaces disappear.
Jerasimos Tsirimiagos, owner of Alexis Restaurant, says he's started closing at 10 pm instead of his former closing time of 11 pm because people stopped coming in once the street closed.
And neighbors want to use the Entertainment District to fix the endemic issues of drug use, crime and noise in Old Town.
Nonprofits who run recovery housing say the district helps with traffic—but not noise. Neighbors in the Old Town Lofts, just outside the closure at 411 NW Flanders St., say the district is pushing the fighting, shouting and vomiting caused by the thousands of binge-drinking suburbanites below their windows.
"An Entertainment District doesn't mean coming out, getting wasted and then getting in a car and leaving," Old Town Lofts homeowners association President Kevin Diaz said.