Local business reacts to OSF launching emergency fund to save its season

ASHLAND, Ore. – Located in the heart of downtown Ashland is where you’ll find John Brenes‘ record store called Music Coop.

His store’s been there for over 20 years.

He’s seen first hand the impact the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has on business.

If the festival doesn’t get $2.5 million by this summer, it says it may not finish the 2023 season.

“That’ll be bad,” Brenes said. “That’ll be a negative impact. I mean will it put us out of business, no. Will it tight things up a lot, yes. Because remember it affects the whole community and the whole community is our business.”

OSF could get help from Oregon House Bill 2459 that’s being discussed in the legislature.

If passed, it would receive $5 million in grant money.

If OSF was forced to shut down, businesses would be impacted, how much though, is up for debate.

One prominent member of the business community speculated that more than half of Ashland small businesses wouldn’t survive without OSF.

We asked Ashland resident and state senator Jeff Golden what he thought of that.

“Nobody could deny that it would be a big hit to the Ashland economy,” he said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those smaller more nimble¬†¬†businesses found a path to a new future.”

This coming Tuesday, Ashland Mayor Tonya Graham plans to sign a proclamation expressing support for OSF.

City councilor Paula Hyatt said the city continues to hear from those who worry about OSF‘s future.

“I have heard concerns especially those in the tourism industry whether it be restaurants or hotels, bed and breakfast,” she said. “That said, the city is working to and has been working to diverse its tourism base.”

Brenes said OSF shortening it’s season and cutting down on the number of shows this year, is already having an effect.

But he’s also concerned about OSF pausing its planning process for it’s 2024 season and what that may mean.

“It makes me question if there’s going to be a 2024,” Brenes said. “Because I know that they start working on the next season as soon as the new season starts.”

Hyatt tells NBC5 the city does not currently have funds allocated for OSF in the upcoming budget, but that could change.

Multiple businesses in the Ashland plaza said they are very concerned about how OSF‘s future will affect them.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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