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.