Though it’s meant to be an event that brings the community together, planning for this year’s Northbrook Days festival is driving a wedge between the organizers and business owners.
Last year, the , which runs Northbrook Days to raise funds for local scholarships and organizations, won village board approval to close off Shermer Road from between Church Street and Meadow Road for five days during the festival on the . It was the first time the street had been blocked off in the festival’s long history.
“Basically, what’s happening is we’re running out of space in the park to put on a good carnival,” said Northbrook Days Chairman Paul Decker. “So last year, as an experiment, the village allowed us to close Shermer Road after consulting with the merchants.”
This year, Decker and other foundation members want to close off the street again from Aug. 3-8. The group submitted a request to the village for approval and met with business owners in early March to discuss the logistics of the road closing. That’s when merchants presented them with a petition signed by 22 people, opposing the idea.
Patch obtained a copy of the petition, as well as Civic Foundation's request and e-mails sent to the village regarding the matter, through a Freedom of Information Act request to .
“It’s not fair for one person to make money while another’s business suffers,” said Carrie Mueller, owner of . While she said her business wasn’t impacted much, she said restaurants, such as and , were particularly affected by the street closing.
“The economy being hard anyway, you don’t want them to lose business,” Mueller said.
Young Hong, owner of , said closing the block last year affected her business somewhat on Friday and Saturday--the two busiest days for the dry cleaner's.
“It’s very inconvenient for customers,” she said. “Some customers complained about the blocked street.”
At the village’s direction, Civic Foundation is attempting to compromise with business owners, Decker said. At first, the organization proposed putting up an electronic sign saying that Shermer Road businesses were still open, supplementing lost income and offering free booths, sponsorship and inclusion in Northbrook Days advertising to the affected businesses.
Recently, the foundation also offered to take out ads in local newspapers to get the word out that Shermer Road businesses would still be open, he added.
“At this point in time, it would appear that they simply do not want Northbrook Days staged up on Shermer Road,” Decker said. “We did an informal poll, and I would have to tell you that probably 97 percent of the people who attended were overwhelmingly positive about the Shermer Road closing and the way the carnival was redone.”
Jerry Diamond, owner of , suggested closing down Meadow Road and Walters Avenue instead of Shermer.
“Why close a road that people do need and leave open a road that they don't?” he asked.
But Decker said the village had already ruled out that option.
“It’s not practical for a variety of reasons--one being, of course, it’s the primary north-south street that carries residents to the Metra station,” he said. “Secondly, the old Northbrook Garage , and as we understand, it’s going to be under development at the time we’re going to have the carnival, which is going to restrict the ability to use that street. So that’s not an option.”
As for Walters, Decker said that historically, has not been in favor of shutting down the street south of Village Green.
“I wouldn’t put any money on it,” he quipped.
The village board is expected to hear from both sides on the issue, as well as concerned residents, at its regular meeting March 22, before deciding whether or not to approve the road closing request.