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Hanover Street ‘block parties’ being revisited by Manchester aldermen

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 18. 2014 8:55PM

MANCHESTER — The Hanover Street summer “block parties” appear to be coming back under a shorter schedule than one approved two weeks ago by the city’s Committee on Public Safety.

Alderman Pat Long met Friday with about a dozen representatives from businesses on Hanover Street and the surrounding area to discuss concerns about significant changes to the original plan that allowed for closing the street to traffic and create a pedestrian way with expanded outdoor seating for restaurants, live music and other attractions.

Long said the meeting at the Palace Theatre was amicable and everybody agreed to renewing the program, but not the expanded version the public safety committee passed on May 5.

“I hear from people all the time saying they like the idea,” Long said. “This has been a success in the past. I know it’s also had its headaches.”

While Long has been a strong proponent of the summer block parties, he said the extended schedule was not fair because it had not been discussed with other property owners.

Hanover Street eateries said the program has been a boon to business during what is traditionally a slow time of year. At the same time, neighboring businesses complained the Hanover Street shutdown drew patrons away from other establishments and their business suffered.

Long said he plans to present a revised proposal to the safety committee on Tuesday, then hopes to take it to the full Board of Aldermen that night. It calls for the sidewalk cafe season to run from the weekend of the Fourth of July through Labor Day, which is about the same length of the last two summers.

“It isn’t just about the businesses. We have to do what is best for the people of Manchester,” Long said. “We have to do what is best to attract patrons to Manchester.”

Long said new restaurant ownership on Hanover Street had not consulted with neighbors before submitting a request to the Committee on Public Safety, which passed it on May 5. Moe L’Heureux, who owns a building across Hanover Street from the Palace Theatre, addressed the full board the night after the committee vote.

L’Heureux said he was concerned about allowing the closure from early May through late October when the first two years were limited to weekends from July through Labor Day. L’Heureux was also upset that the plan called for the street to be closed at 5:30 p.m., half an hour earlier than the first two years. L’Heureux said the earlier time would affect some of the business tenants in his building.

Runner’s Alley, at 36 Hanover St., also objected to the 5:30 p.m. starting time because the store is open until 6.

“As long as they close after six,” manager Betsy Coco said.

The Palace Theatre was wary of the closures going to Oct. 25, although president and CEO Peter Ramsey said he would be open to discussing options when Long got the group together Friday. The agreement was to bring back the closure for another summer, but not extend it into the fall and continue waiting until 6 p.m. before barricading the street.

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