Mobile is throwing Final Four party – but some upset over Dauphin Street closing

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 6:37 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The city is throwing a block party this weekend for the NCAA Final Four, but some business owners on Dauphin Street say they believe it will do more harm than good.

The Mobile Parks and Recreation Department will close a section of Dauphin Street between Warren and Lawrence streets two hours before the first of two basketball games. The event will feature a DJ and a 23-foot LED screen. Some businesses in the area are offering food and drink specials.

But further to the east, Heroes Sports Bar & Grille owner Dave Rasp said the event will clog the main route through the entertainment district and make it harder for customers to get to this restaurant.

“We should all be very concerned anytime we’re blocking off a street downtown, particularly Dauphin Street, the main thoroughfare,” he told FOX10 News. “When you look at how our entertainment district and how our shops and retailers are positioned, Dauphin is a main artery to all of it.”

Rasp said the street only should be closed for massive events, like the LoDa ArtWalk or the Dauphin Street Beer Festival, where the volume of people is large enough that public safety is an issue. He said he does not expect the block party to draw enough of a crowd to qualify. The vast majority of venues are well to the east of where the block party will be, he added.

“We’re creating a barrier,” he said. “I feel all of us are bound to think about the guest experience for downtown every day. And that involves lots of things, including traffic, parking, noise – anything that affects that experience.”

Mayor Sandy Stimpson told FOX10 News that that the Parks and Recreation Department started hosting events around major sporting events in 2021.

“Our goal is to provide great activities for Mobilians and visitors to enjoy, and supporting local businesses, services, and vendors is at the heart of many of the events we host,” he said in a written statement. “We value the input of every business that continues to invest in our community.”

Rasp said a more appropriate location would be one of the downtown parks, such as Cooper Riverside Park. Stimpson told FOX10 News that it is too late to move Saturday’s block party, but he added that the city would evaluate alternate locations in the future.

Rasp he believes the city has not done a good enough job consulting the businesses along Dauphin Street.

“I personally think we need a threshold or some criteria to establish when and why we would block that off,” he said. “And I personally think an event like this would not meet my personal criteria.”

Short of a park, Rasp said it would be preferable to close a side street that would have a lesser impact on traffic.

Mary Monahan, owner of T.P. Crockmier’s, said even closing a side street can push away customer. She pointed to a parking lot behind her restaurant on Dauphin Street.

“It’s a public parking lot, but people can’t even get there because of the street being blocked off between St. Francis and Joachim,” she said. “So no, I’m not into them blocking the streets off ‘cause it messes up the flow.”