COLUMBIA — Downtown business owners found 8.5" x 14" posters urging the defense of downtown business strategically adhered to their establishments' front doors on Tuesday morning.
With bold, black type, the anonymous posters were individually tailored to each business depending on whether it sold food, beverage, clothing or other items such as cameras and flowers. The posters warned against the arrival of the proposed downtown area for fan tailgating and game day festivities, Tiger Town.
"This is not something we take lightly," said Greg Steinhoff, one of the organizers for Tiger Town. "It's surprising that someone would go to that extent. We have always been very receptive to everyone's input."
The group behind the posters emailed the Missourian at 3:26 a.m. describing the reason for the display of these posters.
"I represent a large group of downtown businesses who are furious and devastated that Tiger Town organizers want to have several blocks of food and alcohol vendors in Tiger Town on each game day weekend this fall," the anonymous email said. "Some of us are extremely frightened that we will go out of business because of Tiger Town."
When contacted by the Missourian to discuss the posters, the email sender chose to remain anonymous and not issue any further comment.
The poster featured on the front door of Shakespeare's Pizza said, "Shakespeare's Pizza: Would you like vendors to sell pizza in front of your shop on your most important weekends of the year? Welcome to Tiger Town."
"Hiding behind anonymity with the thoughts expressed in the poster is a bit unnecessary and perhaps juvenile," said Kurt Mirtsching, manager of Shakespeare's Pizza. "If someone has an opinion on how the Tiger Town slating process is happening and what the priorities should be, they should come forward and express their concerns."
Mirtsching removed the poster from the window because, he believes it serves no relevance to the customers of Shakespeare's Pizza.
The anonymous poster included the personal cell phone number of Steinhoff and proposed that individuals call him in order to "stick up for downtown businesses."
Steinhoff said he's received an influx of phone calls expressing support and excitement from Columbia business owners regarding Tiger Town. He has not received any negative phone calls.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, owner of Harpos, found a poster at his bar Tuesday morning as well.
"In general, we are supporters of Tiger Town," Fitzpatrick said. "In regards to Tiger Town, we think that a rising tide lifts all boats with one big caveat and that is, there has to be an equal playing field for everyone involved."
Fitzpatrick notes that beer and food tents should be first offered to the downtown businesses that operate in Columbia all year long, not outside vendors. But, he believes that through Tiger Town, Columbia businesses have the ability to thrive and excel as long as there are equal opportunities presented to all.
Steinhoff said the goal of Tiger Town is to direct as many visiting fans as possible to the downtown area to patronize shops, restaurants and bars in the area.
The organizers of Tiger Town have implemented a formal volunteer committee that are receiving the input and concerns regarding Tiger Town and then working towards applicable solutions, Steinhoff said.
"Tiger Town would show off our town and campus in the best possible way," Steinhoff said. "We need to keep the big goal in mind: To direct as many visitors to the downtown area in order to have a great experience in Columbia."