Performers in St. John's say they have long struggled to access venues for loading gear in and out of gigs — a situation made worse by the closure of the downtown's main thoroughfares during the summer months.
But on Wednesday, the City of St. John's released a list of downtown loading zones that are available for use by both delivery drivers and musicians while the pedestrian mall is in effect. The change was prompted by MusicNL, who voiced concerns to the city over gaining access to venues.
The information came as positive news to many in the music community, including singer-songwriter Chris Ryan.
"I'm sure I'm not the only one in the past decade or so who's gotten more than a thousand dollars worth of tickets," he said.
Ryan said he and other musicians have long been forced to carry heavy and cumbersome equipment, like drums, amplifiers and keyboards, outside scheduled loading times in downtown St. John's.
"The general public might not realize, but not all these live venues are actually open during regular restaurant hours," he said.
But with nine loading zones available at all times of day within the immediate vicinity of George Street — the heartbeat of the city's entertainment district — Ryan is hoping his days of parking tickets are behind him.
"I think that all the loading zones that they did announce are kind of conveniently located to venues that we would be using," he said. "I think it's especially going to come in handy right now with the pedestrian mall."
Rhonda Tulk-Lane, executive director of MusicNL, sees the change as a good first step forward.
"It's a good start," she said. "We're moving in the right direction."
Tulk-Lane says that while the plight of performers loading gear into downtown gigs isn't a new issue, the opening of the pedestrian mall provided a much needed impetus for change. However, she understands the changes might not suit everyone's needs.
"Barriers are being taken down and more supports are being put in place," Tulk-Lane said. "There's still probably going to be a few hiccups."
With the loading zones now open, Ryan said he wonders how the rules will be enforced. In the future, he highlighted that designated loading zones, or special permits for performers like those employed in cities like Nashville, might be viable options.
But for now, Ryan said increased foot traffic in the downtown core, and increased access to venues for musicians, spells success for the city's musicians.
"I think the double initiative created a great opportunity," he said.