A proposal to have a barbecue cooking contest and blues festival along the Peconic River on Labor Day weekend got a chilly reception from the president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District’s management association Wednesday.
John Barci, who identified himself as being from Absolute Webb Advertising, is pitching a plan for a Blues, Brew Barbecue and Bacon Festival to be held in downtown Riverhead along the waterfront on Aug. 30-31.
The local event would be part of the annual Empire State Barbecue Championship circuit and Mr. Barci hopes it can join with existing barbecue contests in Manorville and Brentwood to form a “triple crown” of Suffolk County barbecue contests.
The idea didn’t sit well with BID president Ray Pickersgill, who said that downtown events like the Blues Festival previously held in Riverhead don’t help businesses there.
“As a business owner, when you have a two-day event, I have to shut my business for two days,” Mr. Pickersgill said.
He said businesses that sell beer or food will be particularly angered by this proposal because it will compete with their businesses.
“I can tell you right now, they are going to scream and yell and carry on,” he said with the restaurateurs.
Mr. Pickersgill said the Riverhead Blue Festival that had been held downtown for many years was not popular with merchants there.
He suggested Mr. Barci consider a different location, like Polish Town, land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton or a large farm property like Martha Clara.
Mr. Barci said he didn’t consider other spots because he wanted to bring the festival to downtown Riverhead. He said he thought it would help businesses there.
“I think it’s a good event for Riverhead,” said BID board member Isabelle Gonzalez.
“I’ve always thought downtown events were positive,” said BID member Martin Sendlewski, who is an architect, though said he doesn’t own a restaurant or the type of business that would be effected by a big festival.
“Would you want to shut your business down and lose $3,000 a day?” Mr. Pickersgill, who owns Robert James Salon, asked.
“I’d figure out something to sell and make money off it,” Mr. Sendlewski responded.
“I tried that. It didn’t work,” Mr. Pickersgill said. He said one year he stayed open during the Country Fair and two older ladies had to walk all the way from the Suffolk County National Bank parking lot on Second Street to get their hair done at his Robert James Salon & Spa on East Main Street.
BID members advised Mr. Barci to speak with some downtown restaurant owners to get feedback from them.