The German Village Society has more than half the signatures it needs to shutdown part of South Third Street for its annual Oktoberfest.

The German Village Society has more than half the signatures it needs to shutdown part of South Third Street for its annual Oktoberfest.

Erin O'Donnell, executive director of the society, said 25 local property owners have signed a petition that would allow for the closure of South Third Street for up to four days. She said two property owners said they would not sign the petition.

The society has stated it wants to move Oktoberfest, one of its two major annual fundraisers, to South Third Street between Beck and Frankfort streets. In order to do so, the society needs the approval of 80 percent of the property owners who would be affected by a four-day street closure.

The society sent out 50 letters to property owners along South Third Street and some of the side streets. It needs 40 signatures to move forward with the plan.

Last week, at a packed open house meeting, the society attempted to relate why it wanted to move the event into German Village and alleviate concerns raised by local residents.

O'Donnell said the society has not actively sought signatures.

"We wanted to have that meeting and address everyone's concerns before we went back to them," O'Donnell said. "We've done no follow-up calls."

She said the society received three signatures immediately after the meeting.

O'Donnell said she was unsure if the nonprofit would hold another meeting.

"We'll just gage whether the residents would like us to have another meeting," she said. "We certainly aren't opposed to having another one. I think once we get more answers to their questions we should have one, just to explain what Oktoberfest will really look like.

"We know what everyone's concerns are," O'Donnell continued. "We now need to figure out how to accommodate everybody's needs.

She said she expects the society will create a question-and-answer document for residents once all pertinent information is figured out.

At the April 21 meeting, Bill Curlis, society trustee and chair of the event, said Oktoberfest is important to the society because of its ability to raise money. In the past five years, he said, it has averaged $85,000 in profit.

Curlis said as the city cuts back on services, the society has acted as an advocate for the area.

"We can't do it without the resources," Curlis said. "So the money is very important."

The society wants to move the event to South Third Street for a variety of reasons, including various expenses and limitations, he said.

In the past five years, the event has been held at four locations: Genoa Park, McPherson Commons in the Arena District and the corner of Grant and Livingston avenues.

Curlis said the society looked at several potential locations, including the now-closed Bobb Chevrolet dealership and the Kroger lot, but neither was acceptable. The society went as far as to draw up plans for a move to the dealership, but the spot was sold and will be under construction. The Kroger location would be too small and had parking problems, Curlis said.

The other location the society considered was Schiller Park.

"The problem with Schiller Park: You can't sell beer," Curlis said.

Other problems with Schiller include the city's financial cutback in the parks department, the difficulty of clean-up at the park, fencing off portions of the park and street closings.

Taking all this into account, the society believed South Third Street would be its best option, Curlis said.

Among the ideas residents offered for the event was making Oktoberfest more bicycle friendly, not holding the event on Sunday and rotating the event between South Third Street and Schiller Park in the coming years.

Residents expressed concerns about parking, potential damage to property and the effect on businesses.

Resident Chris Wojcik said in moving the event to South Third Street, the society might hurt the neighborhood in the long run.

He said if the community can't agree on a venue, the society should consider not having the event.

"Maybe we shouldn't have Oktoberfest at all this year," Wojcik said.

Asked what would happen if the event were not held on Third Street this year, Curlis said there was no other plan.

"Then we are going to have some major problems and I don't have an answer to that right now," he said.

Resident Pam Makowski supported the move to South Third Street.

"This is a great opportunity to continue the neighborhood feel," she said. "I love this idea of Third Street because it's the neighborhood. We aren't High Street. We are Third Street. That is our neighborhood."

Other residents were concerned that effectively 50 property owners would be able to allow the street to be closed, but the closures would affect the entire area.

"It wasn't our arbitrary decision to do this," said Jody Graichen, who is helping plan the event. "The society did not make this decision to pick and choose who to ask. We followed city requirements in getting the street closure permits."

Jeff Benson, co-owner of G Michael's Bistro, said he's worried he will lose business the weekend of the event. When his business was flooded last summer, he said, it was closed for two days and nearly went under.

"That's two days," he said. "This -- we are speaking of four days for my business. Let's be honest, everyone in this room knows, my normal clientele won't show up for those four days."

dcross@thisweeknews.com