Despite a disruptive protest last weekend, the owner of Eugene’s Elk Horn Brewery says business is rebounding. As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, their work continues on reducing “lawlessness” across the downtown.
On February 8th, nearly 20 protesters with flyers and a bullhorn entered Stephen Sheehan’s establishment, accusing him of criminalizing the homeless.
“If the people would’ve called me, and said, “Hey Steve, let’s talk about where we can move forward positively," says Sheehan, who was absent during the incident. "Instead of come in here and you terrorize kids that were in the restaurant.”
Sheehan says he’s been targeted for founding Eugene Wake Up! a business coalition seeking to curb vandalism and burglary. He started the group after his brewery suffered $8,000 from vandalism last fall, which included an arson attempt.
“You’re lawless or you’re not lawless, has nothing to do with us being anti-homeless because we’re absolutely, positively not anti-homeless or unhoused.”
Sheehan says unarmed foot patrols have made the area safer since they started up nearly a month ago. The initiative involves the Elk Horn Brewery, several neighboring restaurants, and a few U of O sororities, whose members have had safety concerns about the Broadway area.
The patrols cost each partner $600 a month, though the payoff appears to be greater visitation after a holiday slump for area businesses, include Elk Horn. Lunchtime parking at the brewery was overflowing, recently.
With roughly 200 businesses signed on, Sheehan says the next step for Eugene Wake Up! will be to hire a mediator to facilitate discussion between business owners and Eugene officials.
“I can’t be the face anymore for this group," Sheehan tells KLCC. "I’ll still be wholeheartedly helping everybody behind the scenes.
"It’s just when my wife and my little boy start feeling unsafe, then maybe they’ve accomplished what they wanted to by making me step back…but family first.”
Meanwhile, an investigation into whether the protesters broke any laws is ongoing.
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