Citing ongoing and dwindling participation from borough store owners, the has resolved to begin the New Year free of First Friday events.
“I don’t see this as coming back,” Chamber President Bill George told Patch Thursday, the day before the January First Friday would have been held. “We just had a lot of problems with it. The merchants I don’t think like it as much as they did.”
Chief among the problems, according to George, are the throngs of teens who frequently stand outside of the and . Hatboro Police Chief James Gardner said previously that his officers had received multiple calls on First Fridays because of kids loitering and fighting.
“The one night the police had to call Upper Moreland Police to assist," George said. "That’s probably the number one reason it’s going.”
shared by police and elected officials. Since then, he said the borough had asked the Chamber to cover the expense of having extra police on duty for First Fridays – something George said the organization could not afford to do.
First Friday, which features vendors selling various wares and musicians performing in front of businesses along York Road, began in April 2008. First Friday event chairman Marty Palmer told Patch last spring that 30 businesses participated and more than 500 people came to town.
“The idea was to bring people, walk around,” George said. “And then they come back.”
But, what good is walking around a borough when businesses are closed by 6 p.m. – at the peak of traffic?
said he’s working with business owners to see if they would be willing to expand their hours. To date, one-third to one-half of the restaurants are open for dinner, he said.
“If the entire town is closed then people within the community are going to look at other places to go eat,” Barth said. “We have a very walkable town. If things are open, people will go.”
Bill Brusca, owner of said his Fridays and Saturdays have always been historically busy.
"Even without it I’m still going to have Fridays be the busiest day of the week," Brusca said, adding that he would support another similar event. "It was nice to see the crowds fill the streets of Hatboro."
Along with longer hours for other restaurants in town, events like First Friday are important to Hatboro, Barth said, adding that he had not heard it had been “officially” canceled.
“I like a First Friday,” Barth said. “I hope they can continue that because I think it’s a positive thing in the borough.”
In place of First Friday, George said the Chamber is kicking around “three or four concepts of some neat ideas.”
“We’re not really at the point where we’re ready to announce what we’re going to do,” he said. “We’re thinking about doing something similar that will happen on a Saturday afternoon.”
Chris Gowen, owner of , said without a First Friday, his business stands to lose $300 to $500 a month in sales.
“It’s been very successful for us to stay open later on Fridays,” said Gowen, who, like Barth, was surprised about hearing that First Friday had been canceled. “I’m disappointed that the Chamber didn’t reach out to the stores and say ‘we’re not going to do this now.’ ”
Gowen, who also serves as president of , said First Fridays double as recruiting nights for potential volunteer firefighters.
“That’s the only really good time we have to get out and meet people in town,” Gowen said.
And while his store customers have made comments to him about loitering teens, Gowen said that isn’t reason enough to cancel First Friday.
“McDonald’s does have a security person," Gowen said. “When he’s out there, the kids clear.”
Gowen said he supports doing a similar event on Saturdays. Without a collaborative effort among the business community, Gowen said, “what reason would other people have to come into Hatboro?”