With the pandemic waning, downtown Columbia is seeing increasing levels of outdoor events on public property.
The uptick in the events is welcomed by those boosting the city as a destination, but there have been complaints about the accompanying crowds and noise.
Megan McConachie, a spokesperson for the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said tourism events, defined as those that attract visitors to the city, are back to pre-2020 levels.
“The events that would potentially attract folks to our community are back to or, in some cases, exceeding the level of 2019,” McConachie said.
The exact numbers are difficult to track, McConachie said, because the events held throughout the year are so different. The bureau aims to market Columbia as a destination, with one of its focuses being tourism-related events held on public property, excluding parks. Not all of the events held downtown go through the CVB.
“There’s no way to measure the total of all events,” McConachie said. “There are hundreds each year throughout the city.”
MyHouse, a downtown nightclub and sports bar, has been holding outdoor concerts near the intersection of Sixth and Locust streets. These events have drawn some criticism.
Gary Kremer, director of the State Historical Society of Missouri (SHSMO), took his complaints about MyHouse events to the City Council on Sept. 6. Kremer said barriers put up blocked access to the SHSMO parking lot in late August, causing the historical society to close unexpectedly for the day Aug. 20. He also raised concerns about port-a-potties near the SHSMO parking lot.
Beth Pike, SHSMO director of communications, told the Missourian there were issues with noise levels during concert preparation as well.
Dan Rader, MyHouse owner, disputed Kremer’s claims at the council meeting but said he is making changes to concert operations in response to the complaints. MyHouse is holding a concert Saturday featuring musical duo Two Friends. Famous for their “big bootie” mixes, the duo does mashups of popular music, particularly EDM (electronic dance music).
Rader said Saturday’s event is planned for 3,000 concert-goers and one block. To keep from blocking the SHSMO parking lot driveway, Rader said he reduced the concert’s space and capacity to 50% of what the council approved. The volume will also be turned down during opening acts, the bass will be reduced throughout the entire concert and noise cancellation technology will be used to contain the bass, he said.
Additionally, the direct opening act will not begin until after 8 p.m., when Rader said most of the neighboring restaurants are winding down.
“We just want to demonstrate to the community that even if we don’t agree with their complaints, we take them seriously and we will try to do what we can to make them happy,” Rader said.
Pike said the size of the concert was not an issue. With the historical society’s concerns being known to the city, Pike added that SHSMO is hopeful for a good relationship with Rader going forward.
“We’re very hopeful that Rader will understand our issues and make sure that we don’t have our parking lot blocked, so that our patrons can come see us,” Pike said. “We’re hoping to be good neighbors, and we want to see the event be successful.”
At least one nearby business owner, who did not want to be quoted, said the street closures are bad for business. But several restaurant owners in the area said they do not have an issue with the concerts.
Matt Jenne, owner of Addison’s, a restaurant on Cherry Street just around the corner from MyHouse, said his business has not been negatively impacted. Addison’s actually sees a small bump in customers later in the night during MyHouse concerts, he added.
“Adding to the downtown culture is good as long as it’s being done responsibly,” Jenne said.
The weekend’s concert will be the fourth in MyHouse’s series of outdoor street concerts that began over the summer, when it returned after a two-year closure.
Although the pandemic caused the initial closure, Rader took it as an opportunity to build MyHouse into more of a venue than just a nightclub. The indoor part of the venue is scheduled to open in October. But Rader said year-round concerts — both indoor and outdoor — are in his long-term plans.
“My hope is that MyHouse becomes a concert venue for the entire community,” Rader said. “We’ll do country shows, we’ll have rock shows, do bluegrass and blues, all sorts of things.”
To Rader, MyHouse concerts are a step toward keeping students in Columbia after they graduate. He said the talent levels MyHouse books are on par with those seen in larger cities — Steve Aoki, a DJ with more than 16 million monthly Spotify listeners, performed at MyHouse on Sept. 9.
“I was born and raised in Columbia,” Rader said. “I remember Summerfest and Roots N Blues (Festival) had growing pains and dealt with basically the same issues we’ve been dealing with. It’s sort of a live-and-learn thing.”
Generally, McConachie said, any events that draw visitors to Columbia can have a significant economic impact on the city.
“It may mean an additional influx of people on the dates of those events, but it does have a positive effect economically on those smaller businesses that surround those areas where those events are held,” McConachie said.