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Business drops out of Friday Night Live

Poppin' owner wanted to see WDBA financial records

March 5, 2013

As always, there will be six stages this summer across downtown Waukesha for the Friday Night Live music series.

But for the first time in four years Kathy Garcia won't be part of the popular event.

The Poppin' on Broadway owner has removed herself as a stage manager. Garcia said her departure was a result of her wanting to see how the finances for the Waukesha Downtown Business Association were being used.

The WDBA, a private organization comprised of downtown business owners, runs Friday Night Live, which puts on musical acts from June through September.

"She accused us of not reviewing our finances," said Roger Igielski, president of the WDBA, and co-owner of Allô! Chocolat in downtown Waukesha.

Igielski added that each stage manager is required to pay a fee to pay the band that is playing in front of their business. Poppin' on Broadway, 260 W. Broadway, split the bill last year with Montecito Ristorante, 257 W. Broadway, as the two shared the stage for the first time.

Igielski said Montecito will partner with Guitar For Life Studio, also on Broadway, this year and added that Garcia still has not paid $450 for last year.

"I would be happy to pay, but until I see (a spreadsheet on the finances) I won't pay," said Garcia, who added she has concerns about how others who have their own sponsorships were paying for their stages.

Invited to meetings

Igielski said he invited Garcia to a meeting in January where board members would discuss finances. However, since Garcia said this meeting took place only after she informed Igielski that she was not coming back for 2013, she did not attend.

"We knew she's had some concerns and issues and we had a meeting and I sent her four invitations to attend the meeting and asked her for a RSVP where all the stage managers would look at finances from last year and goals for this year, so we would be on the same page," Igielski said. "But she never replied. She hadn't renewed her membership for the WDBA, so it wasn't a surprise."

About a week after that meeting, Igielski said he got an email from Mayor Jeff Scrima asking him if he could reach out to Garcia once more. But when he did, Igielski said Garcia fired back.

"She said, 'you held that meeting that's owned by someone I didn't like and will never step foot in that business,'" Igielski recalled.

Garcia said she had an extensive talk with Scrima about working on a compromise as well as Igielski in the past but nothing materialized. She added the drama that centered around the BID disbanding was a reason for her not renewing her membership, too.

"There's always two sides to it and it's never going to go away until the city's commander in chief ends this," Garcia said. "But I went through the chain of command to try."

Street closures an issue

Igielski said he wanted to meet with Garcia individually last summer, but as he and his wife were walking down the street toward her shop, he said she starting yelling at them.

"She said she felt unappreciated," Igielski said. "Being a stage manager takes a lot of work every week, so I would make sure to thank her every week, but she still felt unappreciated."

"I didn't think he was there to patch things up," Garcia replied.

Igielski said the relationship between Friday Night Live and Garcia became strained last year. He thinks property owners who oppose the concert series had an influence over Garcia.

"We were very good friends," Igielski said. "It's very sad to think that someone got into her mind. I don't know how (the event) wasn't good for her business."

Some downtown property owners have said closing the streets for Friday Night Live makes it difficult to get to their business. Some have asked that the amount of dates - 18- be scaled back as well.

"There's no compromise," said Garcia, who believes cutting dates back in September because of low attendance should be considered. "No one got in my head. I just started hearing people from both sides. There's no group effort on this event at all."

Igielski said he has tried to work with individuals on both sides, calling the street closings "an emotional issue."

"The argument is that closing the streets enhances the reputation that Waukesha is hard to navigate, but without the event 3,000 or 4,000 people would never even come downtown," he said. "So that theory is destroyed and not rational. And I've got tons of people who want Friday Night Live to stay going longer until 10 p.m. and I've said no to them. Or others who want it more (than 18 Fridays) so I've got pressure on that side as well."

Volunteer effort

He's tired of the bickering.

"Nobody gets a nickel (for running this event)," Igielski said. "We're all volunteers and if we decide we don't need (the backlash), the downtown will implode. Those events are what's keeping some businesses afloat."

Garcia said she put in around 12 to 14 hours on the day of Friday Night Lives and with four of the six stages on Main Street, she loved the opportunity to bring more people to Broadway.

"Now that I have expressed how I feel and how I feel betrayed I hope to move on from this," Garcia said. "But a lot of businesses feel this way about the WDBA."

Would she ever consider getting back involved in Friday Night Live?

"As of now, I don't know," she said.

Igielski said he's looking forward to 2013 Friday Night Live.

"The negativity doesn't help downtown." Igielski said. "So we're just going to stay positive and have an incredible summer."

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