MLK business owners fear move of Bessie Smith Strut - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

MLK business owners fear move of Bessie Smith Strut

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MLK business owners meet, following news of the move. MLK business owners meet, following news of the move.

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- A major shakeup was announced Wednesday for this year's Riverbend Festival.

City leaders are relocating the Bessie Smith Strut to the Riverfront, a decision that has business owners on MLK Boulevard ready to go toe-to-toe with Chattanooga's mayor.

"Without the strut, Champy's would not be here," Champy's owner, Seth Champion tells Channel 3.

Seth Champion says without the annual Bessie Smith Strut, his business wouldn't be surviving, much less thriving.

"The Strut allowed people to come by and see Champy's and see what it was," he says.

Business owners gathered at Champy's Wednesday night, to discuss Mayor Littlefield's decision to move the Strut, historically held along King Street in front of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, to the riverfront as part of Riverbend.

In the past, the Strut has created security challenges.

After a shooting broke out in 2003, controlled entry points were added.

The city won't say if security played into the relocation.

"It's a city call," Friends of the Festival Executive Director, Chip Baker says. "I would check with them, but certainly safety and security is always paramount to anything we do."

Baker says he informed his staff Wednesday afternoon, and plans are underway.

"We are 72 days away from Riverbend, so I'd rather have more time to plan," Baker says. "But time is, what it is, and we'll make it work."

But this close-knit group of business owners worry they can't make it work. They say if the Strut goes, so will a piece of history.

"This is her (Bessie Smith) area," Jessica Dinning says. "And if it just moves away, I feel like it takes away a lot of the meaning of it."

"It has a lot of meaning, a lot of meaning, so when you move it, it's really disheartening," says Ed Blanton.

This year's Bessie Smith Strut is scheduled for June 11.

In the past the event has been free. Channel 3 asked Baker if it will now require a Riverbend pin. He says those details have not been worked out.

Business leaders plan to meet with the mayor Thursday morning to discuss the move.

A group against the moves called "Occupy MLK for Bessie Smith Strut Night" is already forming on Facebook.

It has sent more than 2,000 invitations asking people to fill MLK businesses instead of joining the Strut on the riverfront. Click here to visit the page.

The Strut traditionally takes place on Monday night, during Riverbend, but it's not an official part of the festival.

Riverbend 2012 begins on June 8.

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