By Dave Schwab
A La Jolla businesswoman has called upon organizers of the La Jolla Motor Car Classic event at the Cove held April 3 this year to consider scheduling it some time other than spring break.
Deborah Marengo, owner of Goldfish Point Café and former head of Promote La Jolla which previously hosted the event, said the promoters and La Jolla Historical Society, which is now hosting the exhibition, are getting away from the intent of the event previously held in January.
“I was a part of the formation of the Motor Car Classic and the purpose was to generate traffic flow for the merchants in the Village during slow times very low in tourism and traffic,” said Marengo. “Now they have food vendors from outside the business district selling food and they’ve moved it to a date right in the middle of spring break with street closures that take away parking.”
La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation (T&T) Board voted 5-1 at the March 31 meeting to close portions of Prospect Street and Coast Boulevard to accommodate the April 3 La Jolla Motor Car Classic.
At that meeting Marengo said the Classic should be returned to January or some other time when it does not conflict with the summer tourist season or other seasonal special events which merchants depend on to offset slow off-season business.
Tom Costello, representing newly forming La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc., which is splitting off from the La Jolla Town Council, asked event promoters March 31 whether the event fencing would be setback from sidewalks, which organizers had agreed to keep open for public use.
Tripp Bennett from the historical society assured him both conditions would be met.
T&T chair Todd Lesser cautioned the organizers that in the future they need to address merchants’ concerns in a more complete and timely manner.
“We want any event to be successful, but we also don’t want it to affect business,” he said.
On Monday, April 4 — the day after the classic car meet — Marengo said her business was down 49 percent from the same Sunday the previous year.
“I know that business at the Cave Store, another main attraction, was also down,” she said, noting she hadn’t had time to query other businesses impacted by street closures caused by the car classic.
Not all businesses near the car show however were adversely impacted.
David Hein, who along with wife Meghan owns Brockton Villa restaurant above the Cove, said his business was positively affected by the Motor Car Classic. “We had a really good day,” he said.
On April 7, John Bolthouse, executive director of the La Jolla Historical Society, said his group had not yet had a chance to review the event, but would do so soon.
“The impact on the community and local business, both positive and negative, is very important to us,” Bolthouse said. “We want to be good neighbors.”
Regarding changing the future date of the event, Bolthouse said, “What we don’t want to do is have it all over the calendar from year to year.”
Noting event attendance was down a bit this year, Bolthouse said when the historical society committee meets in the next couple of weeks to examine the event and its effectiveness, one of the things members will look at is other events happening elsewhere in town that same day which could be competing.
"There will be quite a bit of introspection and evaluation of the event and how it is organized,” Bolthouse said.
On the April 2-3 weekend, there was another car event at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the GoodGuys Rod & Custom Association's Meguiar's Del Mar Nationals, which some said might have affected the La Jolla event.