Thousands of people poured through the streets of Downtown New Bedford on Thursday night to celebrate 50's Night, the popular annual event that features vintage cars, classic tunes and memories of when downtown was a happening place on Thursday night.  Those were the good old days.  Stores actually remained open for shopping on Thursday night.

Most downtown business owners shuttered their doors at 5pm rather than stay open during 50's Night festivities.  Shopper looking for New Bedford tee shirts or souvenirs were largely out of luck, unless they wandered as far down as Front Street and The Landing Gift Shop.  But this is not news to those who look to frequent downtown businesses that appear to be content to keep bankers hours rather than remain open when tourists and city residents are looking to shop.  We preach "shop local" yet refuse to stay open for those who would make local purchases.

Why are we spending so much energy and treasure to bring people into the downtown area if shopkeepers really don't want their money?  The restaurants and bars seem only too eager to cash in, although many opted to remain closed during the recent Fourth of July celebration.  It is sad that cruise ship passengers are limited in their shopping options when they arrive on Sunday morning.

New Bedford is a Summer city.  We thrive during the Summer as visitors flock to our docks and into the historic district yet most shopkeepers refuse to accommodate them.

Most malls have rules for their tenants, when we are open, you are open.  Perhaps New Bedford needs to establish a shopping district where similar rules could apply.

I can only imagine how many sales were lost by the stores being closed during 50's Night.  When visitors to New Bedford find businesses closed up tight on busy tourism days and during  major events like 50's Night it sends a poor and unwelcoming message.

We can and we must do better.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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