Managing Holiday Crowds on Main Street

CA_Livermore-Santa-Claus2Keep your locals and visitors safe this holiday season! Friends and family of all ages flock to Main Street for the unique, fun setting to share food, drink, and entertainment. As businesses gear up to host celebrations, company parties and informal get-togethers, it's time for Main Street directors to start planning for safety.

More people in restaurants, bars, pubs, and clubs translate to more crowds on the street. If not managed properly, unwanted and unpleasant impacts can ensue. Noise, fights, crime, public urination, and resident complaints are among the most common. Enjoying alcoholic beverages also brings the risk of over-consumption. Some holiday revelers take a dangerous chance by driving under the influence.

Main Street coordinators are charged with a tall order: balancing safety with memorable, exciting experiences that will lock in loyal future customers. The best way to approach holiday safety is to anticipate and prevent issues before they start.

Tips to Keep Your Main Street Safe and Fun during the Holidays

  • Create a Game Plan: Bring your community's stakeholders to the same table.  Facilitate a discussion on how to collaborate on safety, clarify rules and regulations, address concerns, and set behavioral standards. Invite bar, restaurant owners and managers, private security, police, fire, transportation, planning, residents, etc. Your game plan is strongest when all players are on the team.
  • Choice is the Spice of Life: Offering a variety of activities at night shifts the focus from drinking as entertainment. Coordinate extended retail hours to coincide with peak-activity nights or special events to attract a wider market. The presence of a diverse mix of ages has a social calming effect, easing the transition to the late night scene, when the 18 to 30-year-old crowd populates the streets. WI_Madison_pub-WEB-square
  • Safety from the Inside Out: Host a discussion with licensed beverage businesses on delivering consistent standards for safety and customer service. Encourage staff to use the holidays as an opportunity to get current on responsible beverage service and safety training. Focus on detecting signs of intoxication, checking identification, preventing over-service, and resolving conflicts without physical force. The professional standards set for patrons inside venues continue when they walk out the door.
  • Keep the Noise Down, but Don't Stop the Fun: Joyful sounds of live music and exiting patrons can quickly turn into the bane of nearby residents who are trying to sleep. Set time and decibel limits for outdoor amplified music and communicate these standards to both business owners and code compliance officials. Encourage nightlife business managers to have decibel readers handy and to check levels periodically. Post signs in venues and tell staff to remind patrons to be considerate of neighbors as they leave. Add signs along pathways to respect residents' peace and quiet.
  • More Eyes on the Street: Schedule Main Street ambassadors to work later in the evenings. Not only do they provide friendly, customer service, but they also supplement limited police resources. Their roving presence will reassure older patrons, monitor the streets for disorderly conduct, and dissuade aggressive panhandlers from accosting passers-by.
  • Dispel Parking Myths: Increase awareness of parking locations, price, and special discounts in holiday promotions. Valet parking is a convenient option that can be handled cheaply by pooling funds from businesses in close proximity. If safety is a concern, ambassadors can accompany people back to cars parked in side lots. Roving lot monitors also discourage crime and nuisance activities. Edmonton-Dancing_WEB-square
  • Safe Rides Home: Providing alternatives to driving after drinking too much alcohol can mean the difference between life and death. Work with public transportation entities to extend hours of service. Set up temporary taxi-stands in loading zones to accommodate higher demand, and offer incentives such as shared rides and vouchers. Hospitals, insurance companies, and DUI lawyers are potential partners with access to foundation grants to subsidize initiatives. 
  • Direct Visitors to your Amenities: Erect temporary wayfinding signs to guide visitors to parking lots, dining and entertainment establishments, and public restrooms. If you don't have any public restrooms, now is the time to bring in portable facilities! Or, ask venues to volunteer their restrooms to the public. The last thing you want is for inappropriate business to be conducted in the street.

If your Main Street is a center for dining, entertainment and events, these same strategies can apply year-round to manage your hospitality zone.  

Want More Tips? Check Out the Sociable City Network

Want to talk to Main Street coordinators and downtown practitioners in other cities? Seeking more information on best practices and practical solutions?

The Responsible Hospitality Institute's newly formed Sociable City Network connects you and others in your town or city with stakeholders sharing a common vision of creating safe and vibrant places to socialize. Receive a free 30-day trial membership ($95 savings) to Sociable City Network by subscribing at

For more information contact the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) at 831.469.3396.


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Submitted by Art at: December 14, 2009
Good summary of the emerging role of Main Street Programs- Community Host. As host the program must anticipate the needs of the downtown guests.