Worried that the Tet Festival in Little Saigon may effectively shut down their businesses, a group of merchants plans to petition the city today to move the annual celebration of the lunar new year to another location.
More than a dozen proprietors, whose shops and offices line Bolsa Avenue where the Tet Festival is scheduled for Feb. 23-25, are concerned that the planned street closure and lack of parking may keep away their customers. They are also upset that city officials and other sponsors of the celebration did not consult them about plans for the location of the street fair.
"Even now, all who have responsibility over this have refused to talk to us. [They] act as if it's a done deal," said Cuong Bui, president of ATC Financial Inc. in the Colony Plaza center at Bolsa Avenue and Bushard Street. "Our businesses will have to close during those three days. Why can't they move it somewhere else?"
Westminster is co-sponsoring the local celebration--honoring Vietnam's most important holiday--for the first time since it was launched in 1980. City officials said that holding the festival on Bolsa, in the heart of Little Saigon, would lure more tourists into the area. The festival is but one of many activities the city has planned to promote the district as a tourist mecca.
Profits from the festivities would be used to finance a cultural center and tourist bureau as well as other civic activities, officials said.
Councilman Tony Lam said he will meet with the concerned parties today to assure them that the city is doing everything possible to "minimize the inconveniences" caused by the street fair. Members of the festival committee are also to meet with area mobile home residents concerned about potential problems.
Lam said that in anticipation of traffic congestion and parking problems, traffic officers and prominent signs will be placed in the area to guide and redirect traffic.
Merchants in Little Saigon "will benefit [from the festival] in the long run," Lam said. "We're bringing in exposure and this will benefit the community at large."
Some business owners, however, are anxious about the possible loss of business during the festival.
Nguyet Huynh, owner of Kim Hai restaurant, said a 200-guest wedding has been booked there on Feb. 24. "The guests won't be able to come in, they won't be able to park," she said. "What am I going to tell them?"
Huynh and others said that even if traffic is redirected, they doubt that their businesses will be unaffected.
Bui said, "Even when the festival was held [in other parts of the city] in the past, we still couldn't find parking to get to our own offices. Now, it's being held right in front of our businesses."