Augusta Economy

More News | Fort Gordon | Plant Vogtle | Savannah River Site | Editor

Merchants concerned about future of business in downtown Augusta after First Friday shooting

Saturday, July 14, 2012 3:17 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Aug 7, 2012 2:00 AM
  • Follow Local Business

The shooting after this month’s First Friday was the final straw for Jonathan Karow.

Back | Next
Jonathan Karow, the owner of Rock Bottom Music, said a shooting after First Friday on July 6 is causing him to move his business away from downtown.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Jonathan Karow, the owner of Rock Bottom Music, said a shooting after First Friday on July 6 is causing him to move his business away from downtown.

After running his business in downtown Augusta for 10 years, the owner of Rock Bottom Music at 758 Broad St. said he is moving his store to a new location. He is looking at properties.

Some wonder whether downtown can survive the latest tarnish on its image, given that it already had a negative reputation among many. Several downtown merchants believe the shooting – in which six people were wounded July 6 – has already hurt their businesses.

Blue Sky Kitchen at 990 Broad St. has experienced a decline in sales, even during lunch hours, bar manager Kyla Hartley said.

“People are afraid,” she said. “I noticed a significant drop Saturday night. Usually on Saturday night, we have four servers and two cooks. We had three servers with nothing to do.”

Jai West, the owner of Casa Blanca Cafe at 936 Broad St., said her day business the Saturday after the incident was normal, but her evening business was one of the worst Saturday nights she’s had in the three years the cafe has been open.

“The people that did come in came and left before dark,” West said. “It’s put a really nice little panic in people around here, even the people that are known to come downtown. It certainly didn’t do us any good.”

More bad news came Fri­day when Fort Gordon command staff said it will consider preventing soldiers from visiting downtown Augusta during First Friday because of the shooting.

Previous issues

For Karow, downtown Augusta’s negative image is a reality. He said this wasn’t his business’s first brush with violence. Several months ago, one of his employees was robbed and held at gunpoint on Ellis Street after leaving the store after sundown. He was near a police substation and behind the Richmond Summit when it happened, Karow said.

Karow said his building’s exterior sign has a bullet hole in it from several years ago. Three or four years ago, a 9 mm bullet lodged in the metal frame around the glass windows.

“A lot of stuff has happened over the past 10 years,” he said. “It’s kind of been a don’t speak, don’t tell thing between business owners not wanting to talk about it and detour people away from downtown Augusta.”

Barry White, the president and CEO of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Augusta’s tourism business takes a hit from the incident.

“Safety is critical to Au­gusta’s success as a visitor destination,” White said. “People want to travel to places where it’s clean and safe and have a variety of things to see and do. Unfortunately, the incident could have a negative effect on our efforts to promote Augusta as a visitor destination.”

However, White said the perception is that downtown is more dangerous than it actually is.

“Unfortunately, an incident like the one that happened Friday night can reinforce that perception,” he said.

Margaret Woodard, the executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, said the shooting will be a temporary setback for downtown business. However, any business district would have seen a decline if a similar incident occurred.

She said the sheriff’s office is working on statistics that include the last time, if ever, something of this nature occurred on Broad Street and how safe downtown Augusta is compared with other areas of the county. Officials are also gathering statistics on cities of comparable size in Georgia and South Carolina.

“While this situation was unfortunate to all concerned, we must be proactive with a positive PR campaign that highlights the many incident-free events that have been held in downtown,” Woodard said. “We are working with the mayor’s office to create this PR campaign.”

Woodard said the fate of First Friday is in the “hands of the sheriff’s office and downtown merchants.”

Augusta Commission member Matt Aitken is scheduling a public meeting this week to get input from downtown businesses.

One of the challenges of First Friday is its lack of boundaries or containment, Woodard said.

The Greater Augusta Arts Council has run First Friday on a limited scale since 2007. The organization publicizes the event and organizes performances, but First Friday is in the hands of business owners, executive director Brenda Durant said.

First Friday began in 1994 as an art gallery walk designed to draw families downtown and bring shoppers to businesses. It was originally run by Main Street Au­gusta, which was funded by the Down­town Develop­ment Authority. Main Street Augusta dissolved in 2006, and the DDA ended the event for financial reasons. It was picked up by the arts council in 2007.

After the shooting, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said it will increase security at First Fridays and crack down on minors who are out after the city’s midnight curfew.

The event began a downward trend in 2002. Around midnight after First Friday, a large group began to fight at the corner of Broad and 11th streets. Several other fights erupted, and at least 12 people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. A man was thrown headfirst into a window, shattering the glass.

The impact

Some downtown merchants don’t believe the most recent incident will affect their bottom line.

Barry Blackston, the owner of Nacho Mama’s and a co-owner of Still Water Taproom, hasn’t seen a decline in business.

“Most of our customers come downtown regularly,” Blackston said. “They know that was an isolated incident. It’s not something that is going to happen on any given night, so I really don’t think the majority of my customers are overly concerned.”

Benjamin Casella, a co-owner of Casella Eye Center and the president of the Downtown Augusta Alliance, said he doesn’t think the incident will affect his business, but a continued negative perception about downtown Augusta could affect merchants.

“First Friday is an event that we’ve all come to love. There’s no shortage of blame happening out there,” Casella said. “It’s becoming very en vogue to criticize the downtown community … but the fact of the matter is, a downtown area is the pulse of a community. If there’s a negative perception about downtown, there’s going to be a negative perception about the community as a whole.”

Comments (32) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
itsanotherday1
46995
Points
itsanotherday1 07/14/12 - 02:51 pm
8
1
OK, so do y'all still want to

OK, so do y'all still want to tuck tail and run from the heathens by shutting down First Friday, or do you want to step on the bugs causing the problem?

ByGeorge
117
Points
ByGeorge 07/14/12 - 04:04 pm
10
1
To those who say we shouldn't

To those who say we shouldn't "run" but fight, are you going to support the Sheriff's Office receiving more funding for more manpower downtown? They have almost 50 officers downtown on FF as it is and it's not enough. Where do you propose the county gets the number of bodies it will require to "take back" downtown. I see it more as this. Stop first Friday and the thugs won't be drawn to it. Kind of like if you don't leave food out, bugs won't come to get it. Stopping FF doesn't mean closing business. The "regulars" will still frequent downtown and bring with them new blood.

LuvMyTown
2009
Points
LuvMyTown 07/14/12 - 05:13 pm
6
1
Shut it down

Seems to be plenty of folks downtown on the other Fridays. This event is long past its prime and no longer needed.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/14/12 - 05:16 pm
8
1
Woodard and the DDA should

Woodard and the DDA should spend money on security studies instead of studies about trolleys and the mythical parking problem.

Her answer to six people getting shot? A PR campaign. Ummm...yeah. I already feel safer going downtown.

I can see it now... A guy pulls a gun on a tourist. The tourist says, "You can't shoot me. The statistics say so."

Riverman1
90687
Points
Riverman1 07/14/12 - 06:21 pm
10
0
A PR Campaign???

This PR campaign that tries to make light of The Great First Friday Shootout is the kind of thing that angers those of us who recognize the reality of the violence.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/14/12 - 07:02 pm
9
0
Bad guys, beware

Bad guys might be armed with guns, but beware....

Woodward is armed with statistics!

specsta
6775
Points
specsta 07/14/12 - 07:39 pm
7
6
Panic In The Streets

Panic has run amok. Knee-jerk reactions are rampant.

The power to shut down a city event, to even bar US soldiers from walking downtown on a First Friday, has been handed over, hat in hand, to the miscreants who are so big and bad, that when they shoot off a few bullets, it brings the city to a standstill - and on its knees.

What a crock of nonsense. Who decided to give so much power to bullies and thugs? Does the city of Augusta have no spine, no backbone?

For those who are running scared, let's lay down a few hard facts. A person has a better chance of dying from heart disease than from a bullet. Yet, many people relentlessly stuff their faces with triple cheeseburgers and sodium-laden fries and finish it off with a fat-engulfed double shake. No fear there.

A person has a better chance of dying a horrendous death from cancer, than from a bullet. Yet, people will choke themselves on nicotine-infused cancer sticks, consume junk foods filled with chemicals and preservatives, and overexpose themselves in the sun and tanning booths to get brown skin. No fear about that.

But an ignorant miscreant can shoot off a gun, a rare incident, and "Lawd, help us, we gonna die if we go to First Friday!" is the message of the day.

Augusta, will you just grow up?!!!

Little Lamb
47987
Points
Little Lamb 07/14/12 - 09:34 pm
5
2
Margaret Woordard said,

“The shooting will be a temporary setback for downtown business.”

Please, please, oh please, Augusta Commissioners, fire Margaret Woodard; but just after you fire Fred (What, me worry?) Russell.

anotherlook
101
Points
anotherlook 07/14/12 - 09:37 pm
6
1
Maybe someone should reconsider...

Wow! The shootings occured the month following the banning of the participation of a small urban church that just wanted to bring back a family atmosphere to First Friday by passing out water, performing Christian music, and such.

DMPerryJr
1698
Points
DMPerryJr 07/14/12 - 10:12 pm
4
4
Just Snickering

Y'all gonna give up an event because of some violence? ROFLMAO!

You know what the odds are of it happening again next year?

Stop being punks. Strap on your pistols and go on down there and have some fun.

allhans
24520
Points
allhans 07/14/12 - 11:36 pm
8
1
Specta..You seem to have a

Specta..You seem to have a knee-jerk reaction regarding the concerns of business owners.
This is not being overblown. Wildly shooting into a crowd by a gang of thugs can not be taken lightly.

lokalloudness
13
Points
lokalloudness 07/14/12 - 11:55 pm
3
0
Correction...

First Friday actually began a year or so earlier...bands playing on several corners of downtown...I recall playing the first two...THEN it was revived as an "art walk."

flipa
35
Points
flipa 07/15/12 - 01:00 am
3
0
Augusta Crime Stoppers.org is

Augusta Crime Stoppers.org is offering a LARGE CASH REWARD for any information leading to the First Friday Shooter.

catfish20
272
Points
catfish20 07/15/12 - 05:56 am
5
0
I don't know how Savannah and

I don't know how Savannah and Charleston keep the undesirables out of downtown but they do. I would certainly find out what methods they use and try them in downtown Augusta. I love downtown and want to see it grow and prosper.

TrickMe
37
Points
TrickMe 07/15/12 - 06:00 am
8
0
I have been going to the gym

I have been going to the gym downtown several days a week for years. I dread the Saturday after First Friday. The trash left over from the event is disgusting. Sure the city has people there to clean it up the next day, but when you routinely see so much trash just strewn everywhere, perhaps the caliber of people the event attracts isn't the best. Numerous times I have gotten out of my car to find a soiled diaper in the parking lot. Gross. End First Friday. It has become a nightmare. Then start dealing with the panhandling. I can barely attempt to get from car to building without being approached. Has happened 5 or 6 times in last week or two. Downtown is falling apart.

Riverman1
90687
Points
Riverman1 07/15/12 - 06:33 am
6
0
Bullet holes everywhere

Come on man, just look down there, talk to the business owners, not the bar owners. There are bullet holes everywhere.

countyman
21299
Points
countyman 07/15/12 - 07:17 am
1
5
I live in the downtown area,

I live in the downtown area, and there are definitely not bullet holes everywhere... A shooting in the CBD is very rare even with the large number of events..

Catfish.. Neither one of those cities keep out the undesirables from coming downtown.... If you lived in those cities you would be hit with the daily crime stories.... They do have more tourist, and locals visiting downtown compared to Augusta...

blues550
380
Points
blues550 07/15/12 - 08:27 am
0
0
Church The Downtown
Unpublished

The Episcopal Church of the USA just passed a resolution urging all churches to become gun free. Simple solution: Let the local Episcopal Churches run things downtown. No guns. No problems. And you all thought this was going to be hard to solve.

blues550
380
Points
blues550 07/15/12 - 08:27 am
0
0
Church The Downtown
Unpublished

The Episcopal Church of the USA just passed a resolution urging all churches to become gun free. Simple solution: Let the local Episcopal Churches run things downtown. No guns. No problems. And you all thought this was going to be hard to solve.

avidreader
3476
Points
avidreader 07/15/12 - 09:06 am
4
0
Thugs!

Any event like First Friday that is held in the proximity of ThugLand, is going to attract an unsavory element of our community. Nine months (or so) ago, near six-o'clock on First Friday, I was verbally accosted by four younsters while I was parking my car near Bee's Knees on Ellis St. One of the youngsters wanted a small "donation" so he could get something to eat. They got a lot of pleasure out of intimidating a middle-aged man. I have to admit, for a few moments I was scared.

I still attend First Fridays, but I am exremely cautious and spend more time looking for a parking place where lots of people are strolling by.

Riverman1
90687
Points
Riverman1 07/15/12 - 09:18 am
6
0
Bullet Holes

Let's see Karrow said his business has been shot twice and an employee robbed at gunpoint after leaving work. Rueben's has had its windows shot more than once. A couple of weeks ago there was a police report about a house being shot up on Broad St. If you check for bullet holes down there you will find many.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 07/15/12 - 09:58 am
3
0
Primarily a law enforcement issue...

While I am no fan of Ms. Woodard's stewardship of the DDA, particularly as it pertains to CADI, I feel this is primarily a law enforcement issue....
If the city spent the monies it has more judiciously we'd have more for law enforcement.....
Instead we spend money on ballpark studies, ASDA programs, while law enforcement languishes.....
A commissioner recently told me in discussion of this very issue when I asked him about it said incredulously, and I quote "But law enforcement is already half the city budget"!!! I said maybe it needs to be sixty percent then....At least until downtown is made safer......
Granted none of this will solve the ills of society but by not wasting more money on bogus projects (parking deck anyone?) we can devote more to making it as safe as it should be .....

Lori Davis
968
Points
Lori Davis 07/15/12 - 10:16 am
2
0
Three comments right off the

Three comments right off the bat. I had a meeting with Barry White a few weeks ago and expressed my concern about a TEE Center being built without any regard for public safety in the downtown area being what it needed to be. We discussed how ridiculous it was to have a CADI program using $350,000 in tax funds for clean up. I believe I saw him jot a note or two. The CVB and the DDA need to get together on more than funneling money to their buddies for projects we do not need. We need public safety and everyone interviewed in this article needs to come out and say it! My husband and I frequent downtown and have for years. Perception IS REALITY. We need a PR campaign highlighting the plan for PUBLIC SAFETY AND NOTHING ELSE. Until proper patrolling is in place the downtown will never become what it needs to be. Defund the DDA and have the CVB get involved in something besides the promotion of the TEE Center, which is only being promoted at the state level. The CVB's words, not mine. As for Commissioner Aitken, if he is having his own meeting among downtown stakeholders without consulting the Downtown Advisory Panel, then he is going against the flow. The DAP was put in place by the Commission and this is where the discussion needs to begin.

catfish20
272
Points
catfish20 07/15/12 - 12:44 pm
4
0
Countryman...We have a

Countryman...We have a difference of opinion...I spend a lot of time in Savannah and Charleston (weeks at a time living downtown) and don't see the gangs of thugs walking around like I do when I am in downtown Augusta. However, that does not stop me from enjoying downtown....I love it and want to see it grow and attract more visitors.

itsanotherday1
46995
Points
itsanotherday1 07/15/12 - 01:09 pm
2
0
Bygeorge

I don't think police "bodies" is the issue. It is a matter of getting tough on loiterers and cruisers with (what I believe to be) existing ordinances. Once they get blocked from just hanging out, and unable to play the thumpers while cruising, they will go elsewhere to play.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 07/15/12 - 01:49 pm
1
0
Hmmm...

Sounds like community policing to me!
In the Sheriff's race I say whoever is NOT for community policing will NOT get my vote.....

countyman
21299
Points
countyman 07/15/12 - 04:53 pm
0
3
The owner of Rockbottom said

The owner of Rockbottom said the previously bullet holes were from multiple years ago... An armed robbery and bullet holes in buildings downtown are two diffrent things.... I'm sure the house you're talking about was located in Harrisburg, and not the CBD... How does bullet holes in two buildings along with one house in Harrisburg equal many?? I can go visit Ridge Crossing, or the Circle K on Old Evans in Martinez and find more bullet holes than that...

Catfish... I can't really respond to the groups of 'thugs', because nowadays any young person dress a certain way is called an thug.... Other than First Friday I rarely see large groups of teenagers except for maybe on some weekends..

Those two cities do have more tourist, and local visitors downtown compared to Augusta daily... If you check the police reports it still doesn't keep the undesirables out.. Since they're downtowns are much further along crime probably doesn't hurt the perception as much like in Augusta..

Charleston downtown crime

http://www.live5news.com/story/18510646/police

http://www.live5news.com/story/18827288/man-charged-after-fatal-shooting...

http://www.live5news.com/story/17357572/police-investigating-shooting-in...

Savannah

http://www.wtoc.com/story/18482477/manhunt-under-way-near-reynolds-square

Once downtown Augusta opens the TEE Center, Miller Theatre, buildings at the GGHF site... You'll start to see more of the demographics you're looking for...

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 07/15/12 - 06:06 pm
3
0
Get tough?

Doubt it. I haven't been to First Friday in months (missed this last one, fortuitiously) because of all the reasons the posters have listed. The early evening was okay until around nine, then there were groups (can't use the g-word for reasons of race) of youth shouting obscenities at each other. Several of these groups had individuals lifting their shirts when other groups passed to show they were packing. The deputies cruised by and saw nothing. Maybe they were distracted by the boom boxes on wheels, which they ignored. Even if they were of a mind to take them in, what would happen? First, even fewer officers on the street.

Perhaps, by the next morning, a responding (not gonna say responsible) adult would pick them up. If it ever got to court, a phalanx of friends and relatives would testify these were mistaken identity arrests, as these kids were protesting global warming for their church. The youth not on probation would be put on probation and those on probation would be given double-secret-probation.

"...(W)ant to tuck tail and run from the heathens by shutting down First Friday, or do you want to step on the bugs causing the problem?" Good luck with that; First Friday is a picnic held in a roach motel.

Riverman1
90687
Points
Riverman1 07/16/12 - 03:44 am
0
0
"First Friday is a picnic held in a roach motel."

Heh, heh, heh. But, seriously, there are certain things you just don't try in certain places. Everything should be done to administratively try to keep the wrong elements away and that means shutting down First Friday in every way possible. The business establishments, sans bars, want that. They are the ones the city should look out for.

draksig
167
Points
draksig 07/16/12 - 05:28 am
0
0
Change it from first Friday

Change it from first Friday to first Saturday and make it a day event.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Georgia Regents' hospital plan chosen

Georgia Regents Medical Center won a lengthy and hardfought battle over two other Augusta hospitals to build the first hospital in Columbia County, the Georgia Department of Community Health ...
Search Augusta jobs