Lawrence city commissioners were right to at least temporarily put the brakes on The Oread hotel’s plan to hold a series of “street parties” in connection with Kansas University home football games this fall.
Everyone loves a party, but the hotel’s initial proposal for game-day festivities raises some obvious traffic and safety concerns.
The Oread’s location at 12th Street and Oread Avenue, a main entrance to the campus, makes it problematic to extend activities to the surrounding area. The initial proposal from the hotel called for “public right-of-way” activities on the west and south sides of the hotel, down the west side of Oread Avenue to the Adams Alumni Center and on 12th Street where it dead-ends south of Indiana Street. Their idea was that traffic could continue to flow carefully through that area. However, considering that food and beer would only be available adjacent to the hotel, there should be concern for the safety of people crossing the streets in every direction between the hotel and other party areas.
To solve that problem, city planners initially said the streets should simply be closed, but that creates a significant access problem for people trying to get to the alumni center or the parking structure north of the Kansas Union.
Speaking of parking, where would the people attending the street party park? All of the university parking in that area is restricted and neighborhood streets already are full. If downtown shuttle buses again are provided to take people to Memorial Stadium, they might make a stop at The Oread, but the whole point of the shuttle buses was to encourage people to shop and dine downtown, not on Mount Oread.
There’s also an important fairness issue. Rob Farha, who operates the Wheel Cafe at 507 W. 14th St., pointed out to commissioners that his business, in response to complaints by neighbors and directives from the city, had gone to considerable effort and expense to keep beer-drinking patrons out of the public right of way near the bar. If the city is willing to let The Oread schedule game-day parties in the right of way, why shouldn’t other bars near campus be allowed to do the same?
On Tuesday, commissioners indefinitely deferred consideration of the Oread proposal, saying they needed more details, but given the concerns about traffic, parking, pedestrian safety and all the problems associated with serving alcohol in the public right of way, it’s hard to see how more details will make this plan more palatable. The Oread has lots of party spaces inside and atop its landmark building without taking its game-day festivities into the street.