Businesses Express Mixed Feelings About Roots N Blues Location

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COLUMBIA - Downtown Columbia businesses expressed different perspectives Friday about how the location change of the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival would affect their businesses over the weekend.

This weekend is the first time the festival won't take over downtown Columbia, and will instead be located at Stephens Lake Park.

Toby Epstein, the general manger for the downtown Shakespeare's Pizza, said he thinks the location change will bring in more customers.

"I think the festival scared away a lot of customers from coming downtown. My guess is that those customers will be more likely to come downtown now that the event is at Stephens Park," said Epstein.

Leigh Lockhart, owner of Main Squeeze, said the festival usually brings in business from vegetarians that attend Roots N Blues N BBQ. The festival's first ever weekend was actually Main Squeeze's largest sale day to date. She thinks the location change might impact sales this weekend.

"I don't think it's going to be super busy because of the festival because there are so many good food options [at the festival]," said Lockhart.

Other businesses seem unsure about the effect of the location change as well. Jay Rader, general manager of Bengal's Bar and Grill, said the location change might cause a decrease in customers they usually get from people walking around downtown for the festival.

A downtown eatery's owner said most downtown businesses lost business to the festival in the past and they're happy it has moved.

Rader said he expects the MU football away game will draw in other customers to the bar that the festival could have to watch the game's broadcast. Usually the festival is on a football bye week and makes up for the loss in customers at the bar.

Managers of downtown businesses seem to agree it will be interesting to see the impact, if any, of the location change.