Aldermen clearly were torn Monday night by a desire to help a downtown business with a dilemma and a solution that could interfere with at least some residents’ viewing of the annual Electric Christmas Parade.
In the end, it looks like the city will make a concession to the Hotel Baker, 100 W. Main St., by restricting at least some sidewalk access during the parade. The city likely will cordon off a pathway from the hotel’s front door to the former Vertical Drop building at West Main and 2nd streets to enable the passage of wheelchair-bound guests to a wedding reception on Nov. 30.
St. Charles aldermen meeting as the City Council Government Operations Committee voted to allow the sidewalk restriction, although it was clear that not all supported the move.
The problem began when the hotel booked the wedding reception a year ago without realizing that is coincided with the city’s annual Holiday Homecoming celebration, whose festivities begin with the “Lighting of the Lights” on the day after Thanksgiving and culminate with the Electric Christmas Parade on Saturday.
This year, the parade falls on Nov. 30.
General manager Rowena Salas said the Hotel Baker only realized the scheduling conflict about a month and a half ago. She said this is the first time the hotel has had such a conflict in the past decade.
The wedding is planned at 4 p.m. that day in Barrington, with the wedding party — totaling about 230 people, she said — expected to start arriving in St. Charles for the reception about the same time the parade begins: 5:30 p.m. The reception begins at 6 p.m.
Salas said at least six guests require the use of wheelchairs to get into the hotel, but others, who use walkers or otherwise have limited mobility — also may have to use wheelchairs to get from parked vehicles to the hotel.
Police Chief Jim Lamkin told aldermen there are a number of logistical issues to consider, not the least of which is the street closings, which begin 15 minutes before the parade, and the number of residents who line up along Main Street to watch the parade.
Lighting also is an issue, Lamkin said, reminding aldermen that the city shuts down the street lights during the parade to accentuate the floats, which are decked out in lighted Christmas regalia. Navigation of wheelchairs along the north side of West Main between 2nd Street and the hotel will be difficult, he said, and require the use of flashlights. Even those parade viewers likely would yield to wheelchairs, he said, the crowds and lack of light would interfere with the passage of the wheelchair-bound guests.
The hotel had asked that the sidewalk be closed to parade watchers from the hotel to 2nd Street, but some aldermen clearly felt that would be an imposition on city residents who expect an unfettered opportunity to view the parade.
Residents often place folding chairs along the parade route hours before the parade to reserve themselves a good view of the floats as they pass.
Aldermen were presented with two options — one to entirely close off use of the sidewalk section to parade viewing to ensure the reception guest clear access from the back of the hotel, where they will be dropped off, to the front of the hotel, where the doors can accommodate wheelchairs.
A second option would be to close off only half the sidewalk area to ensure the guests have a clear path that is wide enough for wheelchairs to get to the front of the building.
Aldermen appeared to support a partial sidewalk closure.
They did support a second request by the hotel — that the city close Municipal Lot H on the same day so that the reception guests will be assured of a place to park. The lot, which has about 30 parking spaces, is on the 200 block of North 2nd Street.
The sidewalk and parking lot closure requests await a formal City Council vote. Aldermen are not scheduled to convene formally as the City Council until Nov. 18.