PHOTO BY LAUNCE RAKE
Rehan Choudhry, Las Vegas entrepreneur and primary organizer of the Life Is Beautiful festival, addresses a group of downtown residents and business owners OCT. 10 about the impact of the Oct. 26-27 event. Joey Vanas, left, and Ashley Goodhue are also organizers of the festival.
Life is Beautiful, the Las Vegas music-arts-food festival, is scheduled to descend on downtown Oct. 26-27. But those who work, live or visit downtown will feel the impact much earlier.
The first road closure, 7th Street from Stewart to Mesquite avenues, was scheduled to be in place Wednesday, 11 days before the festival. Following road closures include Mesquite, from Las Vegas Boulevard to 9th Street, on Saturday, 9th from Fremont Street to Ogden Avenue closing Sunday, 8th from Carson Avenue to Fremont on Monday. By the start of the festival, a total of 14 streets, avenues and Las Vegas Boulevard will be impassable to vehicle traffic, some for a few hours but most around the clock.
Some roads will reopen in the hours following the close of the festival Oct. 27, but it will be Nov. 1 before the full area is open to traffic.
Also, Grand Central Parkway, which is the road serving the Clark County Government Center, the Southern Nevada Water Authority offices, the Smiwth Center and the World Market Center, will be closed from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. both nights of the festival, apparently to accommodate parking at the World Market Center.
Organizers hope to attract more than 25,000 people each day to the weekend festival, so the impacts will be far and wide through the Las Vegas Valley. But no one will be more affected than the people who live or work on the immediate, fenced-off area of the festival footprint - or the streets and avenues around the footprint, which also will be blocked off.
Last week, CityLife walked around the perimeter of the outlined festival area, and asked whether Life is Beautiful would be a good thing or a bad thing for local businesses. In a profound absence of clarity, we gathered a 50-50 split.
(Full disclosure: CityLife is a co-sponsor of the LIB Festival.)
“It’s a good thing,” insists Mariana Estes, who runs R&R Auto Service on Ogden Avenue. “More traffic, more people. It will bring people to downtown.”
Estes says the most important positive effect will be that people know that there is a good full-service auto repair shop downtown.
But Billy Shabo, owner of the Ogden Mart just up the street, has some trepidation.
“It’s a first-time experience. Who can tell?” he wondered. “We don’t know if it’s going to be good for us or bad for us.”
He points out that Ogden Mart will be outside the festival fencing, so customers can walk up, but within the area of closed streets, so no vehicle traffic for potential customers.
“That’s going to hurt us, but really, we don’t know how bad,” Shabo says.
Liz, who goes by Liz, is the boss at Bob’s Bail Bonds, and has a bigger headache.
“It’s going to disrupt my business,” she says. Customers theoretically could have access to the closed-off area, but to get there, they will have to explain their business to Las Vegas police working access to the event. Some of Liz’s clients - again, this is a bail-bond office - might be less than eager to talk to Metro, she fears.
“My clients are not going to stop at a roadblock,” Liz says.
Next door to Bob’s Bail Bonds, Father Courtney Edward Krier says that the festival organizers have worked with him, and the parishioners at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, an old-school “traditional” church in which Father Krier performs the Mass in Latin, won’t have any problems. That means that the Mass will go on as scheduled, as will events such as wedding and quinceanera celebrations.
“We’re happy,” Father Krier says. “It won’t affect us at all.”
It helps that all of the church activities will be over by 2:30 p.m. both days, he says.
The Life is Beautiful organizing team led by Rehan Choudhry, Ashley Goodhue and Joey Vanas held a community meeting Oct. 10 at the Downtown Project’s Learning Annex on Fremont Street to discuss the event’s impact downtown. Nearly 75 business owners, managers and downtown residents attended the meeting.
Some residents just wanted to ensure that they could pass through the Metro checkpoints. Others said they live downtown but their cars were registered to other addresses (an odd admission to make with Metro representatives sitting a few feet away).
The LIB team formally announced parking plans Tuesday: Parking will be available for $39.50, in advance, per vehicle, at the World Market Center on Grand Central Parkway. There will be a shuttle to the festival main grounds from the parking area.
For people traveling to the downtown festival from the Strip, there will be shuttles from Bally’s, Caesars Palace and Planet Hollywood, also for $39.50.
Vanas said after the meeting that the festival team would work with people on an individual basis to make sure that they, the people and their oddly registered vehicles, could get in and out of downtown.
The city of Las Vegas is also preparing for the onslaught of food, music and culture.
“Life is Beautiful is going through the normal special event process that any event of this size would go through at the city of Las Vegas, and they are on track for the end of the month,” city spokesman Jace Radke said. “The city began working with the Life is Beautiful Festival about 10 months ago in preparation for the event.
“The festival is unique in that it is closing off portions of downtown,” he said. “However the city has a lot of experience permitting/hosting major events in and around downtown. For example, the annual Helldorado Parade and Rodeo, as well as the New Year’s celebration on the Fremont Street Experience are some of the major events that occur annually.’
Radke said that First Friday can draw as many as 20,000 to the Arts District, adding the festival organizers have worked with city planning.
“The management with Life is Beautiful has been very accommodating and has worked closely with the city of Las Vegas, Metro Police, area utilities and other entities to make this festival happen,” Radke said.
One of those attending the community meeting was Matt Garcia, assistant manager of Walgreens at the Fremont Street Experience, just outside the fenced festival area. He was worried that his 50 employees are going to find it hard to get to and from the store.
“We are figuring out the parking situation for employees now,” Goodhue told Garcia and the crowd.
Garcia, like other business owners and operators, said he welcomes the foot traffic that the festival will bring even if it means a few logistical difficulties.
Metro officer Justin White told the crowd that there would be no parking at all within the footprint of the festival.
“It is going to be a challenge,” White said. “We want everyone to be happy.” CL