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For more than two decades, an antique fair has been staged in the Healdsburg Plaza. But this year it's being moved to a parking lot a block away, much to the dismay of some vendors.

City officials have decided the fair is essentially a commercial venture that doesn't belong in the venerable town square.

"It changes the whole thing dramatically. A lot of people are unhappy about that move," said Janey Hirsh, an antiques dealer who has participated for years. "I believe very strongly that moving it off the Plaza will kill it."

City officials say they are simply enforcing rules limiting special events in the plaza to ones sponsored by a Healdsburg-based nonprofit organization.

They don't want the cherished plaza — already a venue for summer concerts, occasional art exhibits and service club beer and wine events — to be overrun and get worn down.

The 85 to 90 vendors who participate in the twice yearly event on Memorial Day weekend and the weekend prior to Labor Day fall into a commercial category, according to the city.

It doesn't count that one of the booths is operated by the nonprofit Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society.

"The antique fair has been in the plaza a long time," acknowledged Jay Tripathi, chairman of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission. "They basically operated under the shell of the Healdsburg Museum."

In essence, he said "it's a for-profit venture. It's not an accepted use of the park. For years we toyed around with what we were going to do with it. It clearly is not permissible."

In December, the commission upheld a staff decision to deny permits for the antique fair to be held in the plaza in 2013.

Antique Fair Promoter Bill Weinstein of Santa Rosa was then granted a permit to hold it in the parking lot behind the Hotel Healdsburg, where the Farmers Market is held.

He chose not to appeal the commission's decision to the City Council.

"I miss the plaza as much as everybody. It's a wonderful venue for everybody, an old-fashioned event," he said Friday. "I don't think it's necessarily the death knell. This other location has some possibilities."

But he said signs-ups by vendors for the Sunday, May 26, fair are down about 20 percent from normal.

Some antiques vendors have been so unhappy they plan to address the parks and recreation commission on Wednesday at its 6 p.m meeting at City Hall.

"It should be grandfathered in since it's been going on forever, is so successful and so well loved," Hirsh said of the antique fair.

But Tripathi doesn't expect the commission will change its decision.

The commission took a similar action last month, denying a permit application by a sports event and management company that wanted to hold a yoga class and reception in the plaza in June as part of a half-marathon event.

While the applicant said the Salvation Army would get some of the proceeds, commissioners weren't convinced it was anything more than a thinly disguised commercial event.

Some antiques vendors say they won't be part of the fair because of the new location.

"I won't participate," said Lori Aguirre, who sells antiques at the Healdsburg Classics Antiques emporium. "It's not conducive to vendors or clients," she said, pointing to the parking lot's ingress and egress and her ability to unload furniture there.

"I frankly don't know if I will do it this year because of the change of venue," said Jeana Hurst, another antiques dealer.

"When you move anything, that's usually the downfall of it," said Mike Lynch, owner of Healdsburg Classics Antiques.

Disgruntled vendors said the parking lot is not as visible, or as shaded and inviting as the plaza.

They say Healdsburg is known for its antiques, and people travel from around Northern California and sometimes beyond for the fair, helping to fill local restaurants, hotels and even buy gas in town.

Hurst noted that not only does the Healdsburg Museum get some of the proceeds, but the fair helps create revenue for the city.

"I'm very disappointed. This town is becoming a mono-culture around food and wine," she said.

"It's a labor of love," is how Hirsch described her business as an antiques dealer. "I'm not really in it from a commercial standpoint. I love antiques. They are beautiful and interesting."

And she said the fair brings happiness to many attendees who have the same aesthetic appreciation for antiques.

The fair has no admission fee. Weinstein said he collects $135 from each of the 80 to 90 antiques vendors, but said his profits are offset by promotions and advertising, fees and the eight employees he hires to work the fair.

He gives a "stipend" to the History Museum and Historical Society. Overall, what he makes off the fair "is very modest," he said.

Tripathi acknowledges the plaza is "super, super desirable," but he said "our job is to protect the park."

He said he sympathizes with the antique vendors who fear they won't get the right exposure by being relegated to the parking lot.

But the fact is, he said, Memorial Day weekend brings large crowds to Healdsburg, and if there is something worth buying, customers will find it.

"It's plenty visible," he said of the parking lot.