Lights, cameras, less action for businesses

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

A decision to close off one of Black Mountain's busiest street to accommodate filming of a movie isn't sitting well with some local business owners.

Most of Cherry Street and much of Sutton Avenue (west of Broadway to the intersection just west of the depot) were closed to vehicular traffic on the evening of Wednesday, June 1 for the filming of "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." Cars and trucks are not being allowed access to those areas until the morning of Saturday, June 4.

Some local business owners believe that the closure of Cherry Street from the evening of June 1 through the morning of June 4 had a negative impact.
A car turns onto Cherry Street on June 2 only to find that the majority of the road is closed while scenes from "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" are being filmed.
Trucks carrying production equipment line Cherry Street as crews convert the Town Pump Tavern to a movie set.

The street closings required a special events permit, secured  May 23 by the film's location manager, according to town zoning administrator Jennifer Tipton.

"What that allows them to do is asks the town to close down a portion of a street or ask for barricades or cones," she said. "It's essentially a request to use town property. Similar to other events like the Sourwood Festival."

According to Tipton, the production company's representatives met with her, town manager Matt Settlemyer and multiple town officials to discuss how to best accommodate the crew's needs. The permit allowed them to restrict vehicle access to Cherry Street from the restrooms to Sutton Avenue.

John Richardson owns the Black Mountain Ale House,  located on Cherry Street in the middle of the section closed to vehicles. In an email to Settlemyer on June 2, he expressed frustration with what he viewed as a lack of communication from the town about the impact the street closings would have on the heart of the town's central business district.

"While this will have an impact on my business, I know that my neighbors who rely on daytime traffic are going to take a major hit," Richardson said in the email.

Richardson also pointed out a similar incident in 2013.

"(On) March 17, 2013, we faced a similar situation when Cherry Street was closed with no warning for filming of a movie," he said. "And outside caterers were brought in to feed the film crew."

The email went on to question whether or local businesses benefited from the 2013 project.

Settlemyer believes that while there is an inconvenience associated with filming a movie in the heart of town, the long-term impact is a positive one.

"These are the growing pains of a community that wants to expand and diversify," he said. "And that can be hard to do sometimes."

Settlemyer added that the town has learned valuable lessons regarding the impact that filming can have on merchants.

"If filming on Cherry Street becomes a trend then we may need to look at establishing a database of local business owners," he said. "Something like that would certainly help reach everyone and improve our communication with those business owners."

The Veranda was also impacted by the recent street closings, according to owner Jeff Butler, who said on Thursday, June 2 that his numbers were down 30 percent from a typical day in early June. Elderly customers who frequent the restaurant usually need to park nearby, he noted.

Tipton said the street was not closed entirely.

"Foot traffic will remain open throughout the filming," she  said. "There is still access to Cherry Street from State Street, and you can exit through the parking lot onto Broadway."

Settlemyer said that the production company was encouraged by town staff to reach out to local businesses for services.

Set crews worked Wednesday night and through the day Thursday to convert the inside of the Town Pump into a movie set. Filming was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., according to Tipton.

"Filming will be at night," she said. "They'll be filming tonight (Thursday, June 2) and tomorrow night."

The movie will be the second time in less than a year that the Town Pump has appeared onscreen. In December 2015, the bar served as a honky tonk in the music video for the song "Jukebox," by the Asheville-based band The Honeycutters.