Downtown Businesses Oppose Game Day Street Closures

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council will hear more about Harpo's request for a street closure on MU football game weekends during Tuesday night's meeting. Several downtown bar owners are protesting Harpo's request and say it's unfair.

Harpo's Bar and Grill owners Kevin Fitzpatrick and Chuck Naylor are requesting the closure of Cherry Street between 9th and 10th Streets to hold an SEC Hospitality Center for fans on certain MU game days.

Downtown business owners are upset about the request and are protesting. Jack and Julie Rader, owners of Bengals Bar and Grill, wrote a letter to the mayor and city council members expressing their concerns about possible street closures.

"Home football weekends are the lifeblood of many downtown businesses, particularly sports bars," Jack and Julie Rader said in the letter. "It would be completely unfair for Harpo's to be allowed to expand out into their street for their exclusive benefit when most other downtown businesses would not be allowed to do the same."

The letter goes on to state a road closure would also be inconvenient for downtown businesses and bus routes.

According to Rader's letter, other downtown bars such as Shiloh, SOCO Club, Campus Bar and Grill, Quinton's, Willie's, DejaVu, The Fieldhouse, and Tonic have submitted or are in the process of submitting their own street closure requests.

The letter says the businesses are only submitting requests for street closures because of Harpo's request.

"I must emphasise that we are applying in protest and that these businesses do not want to close their streets, but if Harpo's requests are approved then we would have no choice but to close our streets as well and/or explore other legal avenues," wrote Jack and Julie Rader.

The letter claims that Harpo's request includes street closures on Friday and Saturday for every MU home game. However, in the request submitted by Harpo's Bar and Grill, it asks for street closures only for the last four home football games.

Harpo's co-owner Chuck Naylor said if the street closure passes, it will benefit all downtown businesses.

"This is not just about Harpo's, this is about downtown and that's the main thing," said Naylor. "We encourage all businesses to embrace this opportunity and really step up their game before SEC games. I know there's other applications in and this is about making downtown the magnet."

Harpo's requested street closures in 2010, but the city council denied that request.