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SOMETHING TO WALK AND WINE ABOUT

rb-restaurants-052711Citing last year’s success, downtown Red Bank restaurants will reprise Food & Wine Walk this summer, beginning Sunday. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

As if last weekend’s Riverfest wasn’t enough to show off Red Bank restaurants, downtown promoter RiverCenter is cueing up a post-park foodfest of its own — an entrée into summer, if you will — reinstating a biannual tradition sprung last spring that brought the crowds into and sent them all about downtown Red Bank.

So, if you haven’t fully digested the lobster, filets and burgers of last week, RiverCenter’s got a suggestion: walk it off. And grab a glass of vino while you’re at it.

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NOW WAS THAT SO HARD?

Tom Fishkin of Readie’s Fine Foods and activist Cindy Burham took it on themselves to clear off some ice-encrusted benches in downtown Red Bank Tuesday. “Nobody will sit on them, but they’ll look nicer,” Fishkin said. (Click to enlarge)

PARKING-SHORTAGE RULE TO BE SUSPENDED

Rclarge2_010508By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In an effort to pull Red Bank’s struggling business districts out of an economic hole, the borough council is making a revenue concession aimed at attracting new stores and restaurants.

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MIXED REACTIONS FOR NEW METER RATES

meterfeeder11Matthew Shubitz thumbs through a handful of change Friday to round up enough to satisfy Red Bank’s new meter rates. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s been a little more than a month since Red Bank doubled curbside parking meter rates downtown, jacking the fees from 50 cents and hour to a dollar.

Borough officials made the move, which also included a 33-percent increase to permit fees, in part to put a tourniquet on a $10,000-a-month bleed from town coffers that began when free Saturday parking took effect in early 2009.

So how has it been working out?

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RBR STARS SCORE AT BASIE AWARDS

SiobhanYvonneNumaCount Basie Theatre board member (and Basie Awards host) Siobhan Fallon-Hogan, Education Director Yvonne Lamb Scudiery, and CEO Numa Saisselin at April's announcement of this year's nominees. 

By Tom Chesek 

A Romeo, a Juliet and a thoroughly modern Millie were among the characters who had an exceptionally good night on Wednesday as the fourth annual Count Basie Awards honored the best in Monmouth County's high school stage productions.  

Four Red Bank Regional students took home major awards.

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ON DECK: A TRADER JOE’S AND A GARAGE?

Traderjoes1a

It is perhaps the single most contentious issue in Red Bank: whether the downtown needs a parking garage.

Merchants, in general, say yes. They complain that a shortage of street and lot parking is choking their businesses and undermining broader efforts to capitalize on the town’s sterling reputation as a cultural and shopping destination.

Building a garage that significantly increases the number of parking slots in the central business district is the best thing Red Bank could do to preserve its stature among New Jersey downtowns and stave off threats from Pier Village in Long Branch and other emerging marketplaces, proponents say.

But many residents say no way to a parking deck — not if they have to pay for it with higher property taxes.

Efforts by the Democrat-controlled council to convert the borough-owned White Street lot to a parking deck attracted large, angry crowds in 2001 and 2005. The latter attempt called for a 570-car, $11.8 million structure. Both times, the idea was shelved.

The solution, many agree, is some form of public-private deal in which a developer carries the financial risk and the town gets both revenue and more slots.

Finally, a plan along those lines may be in the works. And it involves a high-profile retailer that has done this sort of thing before elsewhere.

redbankgreen has learned that representatives of Trader Joe’s, a wildly popular chain of specialty food stores with affordable prices, met with borough officials two weeks ago to explore the possibility of building a store with a parking deck above it on the White Street lot.

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A LITTLE SUPER SHRINKAGE

In the ever-chipper language of public relations, this year’s “Shopper Bowl Shuffle,” a downtown sales push in conjunction with the Super Bowl, is “bigger and better,” says a press release from RiverCenter.

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The “better” remains open to interpretation, but in fact, Shopper Bowl II is shaping up as somewhat smaller than last year’s version. And the falloff in participation among downtown businesses illustrates the challenges that organizers face in corralling large numbers of merchants for themed, collective efforts.

RiverCenter, the nonprofit administrator of the downtown Special Improvement District, lists 41 stores, restaurants and salons that plan to be open and offering discounts of 20 percent or more this weekend. A year ago, there were 53. And only 38 of this year’s participating stores are expect to be open both days of the two-day event, down from an estimated 48 last year.

Nineteen businesses that were on last year’s list aren’t on this year’s, a drop partly attributable to store closings and relocations. Furnishings retailer Vizzini & Company, for example, moved from Monmouth Street to the Galleria, which is outside the district. Old Monmouth Candies, on Broad Street for the past two years, recently retrenched to its original Freehold location. The Paper Rose, a card store on Broad, is closing for renovations.

But it’s not only a matter of the steady churn of retail faces that accounts for the decline. A dozen businesses that held sales last year and still operate in the district didn’t re-up, even though nearly all of them plan to be open Saturday anyway. They are: Agostino Antiques, Coco Pari, Mustillo’s, Primas Home & Cafe, Surray Luggage, Maxwell & Sophie, Drummer’s Alley, Readie’s Fine Foods, Seldin’s Jewelry, Cigars Plus, Grieco’s Bakery and Quicksilver Handcrafted Jewelry.

What gives?

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