In an attempt to kick-start the holiday shopping season, Mayor Shirley Dean, along with representatives from the Chamber of Commerce announced the Shop Berkeley $2,000 Sweepstakes Tuesday.
During the press conference held in front of Bill’s Trading Post on College Avenue, both Dean and Chamber of Commerce President Reid Edwards denied that the sweepstakes was designed to offset a potential downturn in business related to a controversial council resolution calling for a quick end to the bombing of Afghanistan.
“We would be doing this regardless of the resolution,” Dean said to television, radio and newspaper reporters. “Berkeley has gone through a renaissance and there are hundreds of friendly shops and restaurants that reflect the unique character of Berkeley.”
The controversial resolution received national attention and spurred thousands of people to send e-mails and letters, many of which threatened an economic boycott of Berkeley businesses. According to Edwards the existence of a boycott has been only anecdotal. The city’s manager of economic development did not immediately return calls to discuss the possible boycott.
In fact, progressive Councilmember Dona Spring, who originally authored the controversial Afghanistan resolution, said Berkeley shops might be experiencing a slew of business.
“We’ve received lots of post cards and e-mails from people saying they will make a point of shopping in Berkeley,” she said. “There are many people in the Bay Area who want a peaceful resolution to the war and are glad to see at least one local government express concern about the use of weapons of mass destruction.”
Dean, along with three other moderate councilmembers, did not vote for the resolution, which was narrowly approved on Oct. 16 by the council’s progressive majority.
Shoppers interested in participating in the sweepstakes can do so by spending more than $100 at any one of the 200 participating stores or restaurants. Winners will be drawn from the names of participants on Jan. 10. The first prize is $1,000 and there are two secondary prizes of $500. The sweepstakes begins Monday and will continue through Dec. 30. Dean credited her chief of staff, Jennifer Drapeau, for the sweepstakes idea.
Since the threat of a boycott, both moderate and progressive councilmembers have eagerly shown support for Berkeley businesses. On Tuesday’s City Council agenda, there were two pro-business recommendations authored by progressive councilmembers.
One recommendation, authored by councilmembers Linda Maio and Spring, calls for a grant of $25,000 for a citywide holiday advertising campaign, free parking on Saturdays and an additional $25,000 for citywide advertising in the spring.
In addition Maio has submitted a recommendation that the city’s main Web page add a link to a list of Berkeley businesses that do commerce on the Internet “because supporters (of the resolution) from across the country have asked how they can help patronize Berkeley businesses,” she said.
The recommendation went on to request that Dean remove any mention of a boycott from her Web site and that she “emphasize the strength and uniqueness of Berkeley’s businesses, which continue to enjoy a strong regional draw.”
Janet Dunlap, the manager of Bill’s Trading Post, said she hopes the sweepstakes will reverse the indicators of a downturn in the economy.
“I hope it perks things up around here,” she said. “There’s actually parking spaces outside and that’s a bad sign.”