Third Alive! concert searches for home

Alive! After Five is set for two appearances at the Henderson Operations & Service Center this year, but a planned third concert has been lost in the debate over alcohol use on city property.

When the Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce last year moved its fund-raising concerts to the Operations & Service Center from an outdoor site at Rose Avenue and Chestnut Street downtown, it cut the number of concerts in the annual warm-weather series from three to two.

The Operations & Service Center is ideal for Alive! After Five because the Beckford Drive facility offers ample parking as well as party space, Chamber President Bill Edwards said.

But one of the motivations for Alive! After Five’s launch in 2001 was to offer a reason for people to go downtown after business hours, so the Chamber is adding a third concert downtown during the summer. The problem is where to hold it.

“The reason to have a third one was just to provide an additional event for the community in an additional location,” Edwards said in an interview this week.

He spoke before the City Council’s Land Planning and Development Committee took up the question of alcohol on city property at a meeting Wednesday. That discussion grew out of council concerns about beer sales at Alive! After Five.

The council endorsed the Chamber’s use of a city facility for Alive! After Five in a vote Feb. 14; only Mary Emma Evans spoke and voted against an event that is sponsored by an Anheuser-Busch distributor, Harris Inc. of Henderson, and relies on beer sales as a draw and a revenue source.

City Manager Eric Williams revived the issue Monday night when he told the City Council about an inquiry from Harris Inc. President Paul Harris about the possibility of closing a city street downtown for an event including beer sales. That event apparently is the third Alive! After Five.

The Land Planning and Development Committee’s three members, Chairwoman Elissa Yount, Evans and Lonnie Davis, agreed on a policy Wednesday that would ban any more events involving alcohol on city property; the policy awaits action by the full council. The committee specified that the policy would not apply to the two Alive! After Five events scheduled for the Operations & Service Center: April 28 with the band Right On and Sept. 15 with the Breakfast Club.

Edwards and Williams pressed the committee for a definitive statement on events on city streets, but Yount resisted, insisting that Henderson could rely on state law regarding street parties. An existing ordinance allows alcohol at street events if the organizers obtain a single-use permit from state alcohol authorities and get city permission.

That leaves the third concert in limbo, but plans are moving ahead.

Edwards said Liquid Pleasure has been signed to perform June 23 at a downtown location to be determined.

Unlike the two events at the Operations & Service Center, the downtown concert will not include the special Kids Alive! After Five activities, but the original Rose Avenue location still won’t be big enough for this summer’s concert, Edwards said.

He said the two Alive! After Five events last year drew a total of 4,300 people to the Operations & Service Center. The crowd estimate on Rose Avenue never topped 1,500, and parking already was a problem.

“We completely outgrew the space by Rose Avenue,” Edwards said. People were parking across Chestnut Street at BB&T and an auto parts store, creating a major safety hazard. And parking downtown is tougher now with the construction at Embassy Square.

That construction eliminated one possibility for this summer’s concert, a closed-off Breckenridge Street. Plus, Edwards noted, there’s the hot issue of alcohol use on city property. “We don’t want to create any additional burden on the city staff.”

The third concert, like the other two, has Harris Inc. as the primary sponsor and carries the banner of the Budweiser True Music series. And beer sales will be involved.

Edwards said Alive! After Five is important for two reasons: It’s a major fund-raiser for the Chamber, and it provides quality entertainment for people who can’t or don’t want to go to the Triangle.

He said the many young schoolteachers in the area particularly appreciate Alive! After Five. They’re looking for some nightlife, but they lack the money to go to clubs or concerts in Raleigh or Durham.

“We get good feedback from education professionals,” Edwards said.

He said the June event will be held somewhere. Edwards hopes to make an announcement at the April Alive! After Five; at the latest, he said, the location should be set by mid-May.

(Read more about the plans for Alive! After Five and learns about the bands at the Chamber’s Web site.)