Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"infiltrating" a public event and a Dear Abby public space note

Mark Gardener points out that there will soon be more people infiltrating public events by a Washington State congressman.

How does one infiltrate a public event? Shouldn't public events be open to anyone, even folks who live outside a particular district?

Anyway, there was an interesting piece in Dear Abby last week that got me thinking about public spaces, and especially the recent dependence of groups on restaraunts and coffee shops as meeting space.

I work at one of the nicer, upscale restaurants in our small community. We have been having an issue with groups or committees of anywhere from four to 15 people coming into the establishment to hold their meetings. These groups frequently arrive at normal evening dinner times and therefore take up a table, but the attendees don't order anything.
Abby responds that the manager should set a minimum order policy and then take care of things, but that avoids the question about available space in their "small community." If groups and committees are taking to this restaurant for their meetings, I'm assuming their is a shortage of otherwise free or cheap meeting space in that town.

A lot of the meetups I've been attending the last few years have been at restaurants. One particular uncomfortable one happened when the manager and staff clearly felt like the above letter writer.

Abby referred to these meeting folks as "freeloaders," which is a bit unfair. They aren't trying to get food for free, their just trying to meet in some place outside their home.

In Olympia, at least, there is a dearth of free (or very cheap) meeting space for folks to come together. Outside of commercial establishments, there is a lack of informal "third spaces" as well. That there are folks that still want to get together in most communities, this lack of other space is being forced upon restaurants.


Anonymous said...

I'd have to say the term "freeloaders" is applicable, because the space is a product, too. If the space weren't valuable, why not just meet in the Gas'N'Sip parking lot?

Stefan said...

Emmet, what about the meeting rooms at the Olypia Center? Also the library has meeting rooms for community events. I haven't used either service, so they might have drawbacks I'm not aware of. Is that true?

Emmett said...

Not necessarily drawbacks (other than the cost of paying for a room at the Olympia Center), but that those two options are the only two options in town. There is also space available at the schools, but I think we're talking about two different things.

There's a difference between formal meeting space that can be reserved and paid for in advance for organizations and informal meeting space which can also host meetings. There is an advantage to having places where people can quickly come together (like a restaurant) that aren't as restrictive as restaurant or coffee place.