HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Downtown and Chinatown merchants can no longer afford to pay to close part of Hotel Street to city bus traffic during First Friday events.
Prior to tonight, attendees could cross the street anywhere on the block between Nuuanu and Smith streets.
Private security officer Thomas Frazier foresees some confusion.
"I believe police are going to have twice as much work to do, trying to corral the folks to stay on the sidewalk," he said.
Nicole Reid is co-owner of the Manifest. She said merchants will remind First Friday customers to stay off the street.
"We will have barricades that are going to basically keep people from having the ability to cross the street," she said.
The Arts District Merchants Association has also stopped paying for the 10 off-duty Honolulu police officers who patrolled the event. HPD wanted to increase it to 18 off-duty cops and up the fee from $2,700 to $4,700 a month. Association spokesperson Miki Lee said the jump was too steep.
"We were hoping that maybe they would modify that number, that the city DTS might help with that. We were hoping for some middle ground," she said.
Art galleries used to be the draw on First Friday. A few remain but several have closed. Attendance and sales during the monthly event have both gone down.
"I would say on First Friday we've dropped 25 to 30 percent. It's direct correlation. I've heard this from other businesses as well," Lee said.
Reid believed smaller crowds present an opportunity.
"With that decrease there's an opportunity to re-brand First Friday away from really just the late-night portion on Hotel Street, and try to push people down the street towards really great restaurants and other businesses," she said.
The city will evaluate tonight's event before deciding when it will resume running busses on Hotel Street during First Friday. It will be an adjustment for customers who are accustomed to a vehicle-free zone.