Railyard Owner Seeks Advertising Changes, but Competitors Say No

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Lincoln, Neb.-- Kevin Fitzpatrick co-owns Barry's Bar and Grill in the Haymarket. He said Barry's and other businesses in the Haymarket, and around Lincoln, have never enjoyed the same privileges of the Railyard.

"From the beginning," Fitzpatrick said, "we're not on an equal playing field."

And now, he said, this proposal is just another example.

According to City Council member Jon Camp, the company that developed the Railyard (WRK Real Estate) is now seeking to adjust the way they advertise on their properties. Part of that would include changing the advertisements shown on the large Cube television, perhaps allowing the Railyard to thank outside benefactors.

Camp said current city ordinances prevent properties from advertising businesses that aren't on their premises. For example, current laws prevent the Railyard from advertising a sponsor if that sponsor's location is somewhere outside of the entertainment district.

WRK told 10/11 in February that they were seeking more sponsors to help offset higher than expected costs. But, bar and restaurant owners argue WRK signed an advertising agreement, and should not be allowed to try and alter it, regardless of how high their expenses are.

Plus, all restaurant owners are paying a two percent extra tax to help pay for the arena, an arena that then draws customers right back to the Railyard.

"We end up having to pay that money out of our pocket," Troy Falk, the owner Doc's Place in the Haymarket, said.

"So, we end up losing that arena tax. And, so, because of that, I don't think they should be able to turn around and make additional revenue on something we're paying for."

Brett West, of WRK, said everyone is getting entirely ahead of themselves and that the proposed changes are delayed.

But, Jon Camp said the Urban Design Committee has already seen the proposal, and he expects the city's Planning Commission will also see it soon, if they haven't already.

He said the proposed ordinance changes could be on the council's desk in the next month or two.

Camp said the Railyard already has a special signage exemption in place that Haymarket businesses aren't afforded. He said they also received millions in subsidies and have the entertainment district, allowing patrons to carry an open container outside between certain locations. Camp said this is unlike anywhere else in the city.

Fitzpatrick said if the Railyard is allowed to make changes, he'll turn right around and ask the city for the same treatment.

"If that's what everybody else is doing," Fitzpatrick said, "and that's what we have to do to compete, we'll do it."