First, the City denied a portion of the Artisan Markets permit submitted by Artisan Markets founder and owner Audrey Thacker. Thacker applied for a permit to hold Thursday night and Sunday afternoon markets from October of 2015 through April of 2016. But this past August, she received approval only for October through December of 2015 events. Then the City reviewed the permit granted for October through December, and decided during negotiations with Thacker to rescind the permit for Thursday evening Artisan Markets after November 12.
The markets, first held on the Scottsdale Waterfront during the fall of 2009, bring together artisans on Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons for tented gatherings where they show and sell their works, which include visual art, jewelry, and more.
Several petitions written and signed in recent years by gallery and small business owners have expressed objections to Artisan Markets — mostly because of concerns that the events negatively impact the area’s small business community. At the August 25, 2015, Scottsdale City Council meeting, Paul Eubanks, owner of Gallery Russia in downtown Scottsdale, submitted a petition with more than 200 signatures asking the City to limit Thursday night art events in downtown Scottsdale to the Scottsdale ArtWalk. In September, a petition submitted by Southbridge and Stetson Merchants asked the City not to allow any Artisan Markets from October 2015 to April 2016. It was signed by about three dozen people, including seven board members of the Scottsdale Gallery Association.
Citizens can present petitions at Scottsdale City Council meetings, but the Council has to add them to a future meeting agenda if they want to discuss them or consider taking related action. No minimum number of signatures is required to submit a petition during a Scottsdale City Council meeting.
Artisan Markets founder and owner Audrey Thacker defends the marketplace, saying it helps local artisans and draws people to the area who then stay to explore other Scottsdale happenings. She received an e-mail from Randy Grant, zoning administrator for the City of Scottsdale on October 16 explaining that the Artisan Markets permit request for January through April of 2016 was being denied, and has since shared that e-mail with New Times. The e-mail cites a city zoning ordinance about "protecting nearby neighborhoods and the public health, safety and welfare."
The decision regarding future Thursday nights during 2015 was the subject of a report read by acting City Manager Brian Biesemeyer during a Scottsdale City Council work study session held on Tuesday, October 27, at Scottsdale City Hall. Biesemeyer e-mailed a copy of the report he read to New Times, which notes that he had two meetings with Artisan Markets including one with legal representation.
A final section of the report reads as follows: "After these meetings, Artisan Markets has agreed to eliminate all Thursday night events after November 12, 2015. In order to avoid any legal entanglements, this compromise proposal is being implemented and we will be modifying the permit eliminating Thursday nights after November 12th. All other aspects of the permit will remain in place for the remaining 2015 dates and as previously mentioned 2016 dates have been denied."
Normally, the fine print surrounding such issues doesn’t make it onto anyone else’s radar. But artists, business owners, and citizens have been lining up on both sides of the issue. Some on each side of the issue have conspiracy theories suggesting special interests or personal attacks are behind actions being undertaken by some city officials and community members.
After receiving Grant's October 16 e-mail, Thacker responded by starting an online petition to ”Keep Artisan Markets in Scottsdale Open” through Change.org, and also launched a “Save Artisan Markets” campaign with the crowdsourcing website Go Fund Me, to raise money to cover costs such as hiring an attorney or relocating Artisan Market events. As of Wednesday morning, October 28, she'd gathered 1,362 signatures on her petition, which was signed mostly by people in metro Phoenix, but also by people in other parts of Arizona, plus other states and even other countries. And she'd raised $2,655 towards her $50,000 goal, through 56 donations made during the course of seven days.
Real estate broker Thomas W. Giller of Alamos Management Resources, who manages building space rented by several downtown Scottsdale galleries (including Carstens Fine Art, Tilt Gallery, Blink Gallery, and others) had attorney Arthur W. Pederson of the Scottsdale law firm Sherman & Howard send a letter (by hand and e-mail) to Mayor Jim Lane and the Scottsdale City Council on October 5.
The 11-page letter (with more than twice as many pages of “exhibits” attached) states that the City of Scottsdale has a legal duty to rescind the Artisan Markets permit, and offers several rationales, including that the City has no power or authority to issue special event permits for the use of public property and that low special event fees ($159) charged Artisan Markets constitute a gift violating the Arizona constitution.
Some opponents are not satisfied with the decision to end Artisan Markets on Thursday nights after November 12. On Wednesday, October 28, Giller copied New TImes on an e-mail sent to Biesemeyer, the City Council, and two additional City staff members. His e-mail begins as follows: "While we are pleased that there will be no Thursday night art poach festival on the Canal Bank, we do not accept that the dishonest and reprehensible operator of Artisan Mockery being permitted to operate on Sundays!" It concludes with this line: "Why do you persist in cheating us?"
Meanwhile, Thacker is hoping the decision to deny the Artisan Markets permit for January through April of 2016 can be overturned. On October 26, Thacker filed an appeal with the City of Scottsdale regarding the permit denial for January through April of 2016, according to Biesemeyer, who e-mailed a copy of the appeal to New Times. Days before, opponents who expected that Thacker would appeal started e-mailing City Council members and City staff, demanding that any appeal hearing be open to the public.
Typically, such appeals are handled through closed administrative hearings, according to Biesemeyer. On October 28, Grant sent an e-mail to approximately two dozen people who had asked to be notified if Thacker filed an appeal. Thacker forwarded Slack's e-mail to New Times. The e-mail notes that although the appeal hearing will not be conducted in a public forum, a record of the hearing and copies of all materials considered, as well as the written decision, will be made available to the public.
Thacker says she’s trying to stay positive, but she’s clearly disappointed by the City’s decision not to grant Artisan Markets a permit to operate Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons through April of 2016.
“I feel like the city gave into bullying tactics,” she says.