After multiple Old Town Newhall businesses expressed frustration over parking and revenue decline due to filming in the area, Santa Clarita officials agreed to implement a filming moratorium on Friday and Saturday nights — but employers believe it’ll take more to address their concerns.
An estimated 20 businesses from Main Street and the surrounding neighborhood gathered inside The Main on Tuesday morning with city staff and representatives of the CBS show “SWAT,” which has frequently filmed in the area. The idea was to have “an informal dialogue to better understand what some solutions are,” Jason Crawford, economic development director for the city, said at the meeting.
Filming in Old Town Newhall is nothing new, but activity on Fridays — the day local businesses rely on for the most foot traffic, as well as weekends — has affected businesses’ operations, they said.
Many businesses reiterated that they are not opposed to filming in the area, which Crawford said brings Santa Clarita an average of $30 million each year; but they were concerned about “when it happens and how it impacts us,” said TimBen Boydston, executive director of the Canyon Theatre Guild, which is near where “SWAT” films.
From eateries like Old Town Junction to record store Voodoo Vinyl and convenience market Bonanza Liquor, owners and managers alike have said some film productions have not respected their permit limitations that the city’s Film Office has issued, such as filming past the hours they indicated to businesses or taking up too many parking spots, ultimately discouraging customers from shopping.
“Anytime there is filming, on average, I make $1,000 less in sales,” said Amer Nackoud, owner of Bonanza Liquor Market. “Not only that, some customers just disappear because it’s just (an) inconvenience; they never show up again. Last summer, I did $95,000. This summer, I did $76,000.”
Businesses have a say on whether they approve filming in their area via a city survey, which details dates, times and how much space productions will need, but Cherie McGraham, owner of Smokehouse on Main, said the process is flawed.
“To me, I feel manipulated,” said McGraham. “It’s to get us to sign it and say we’re OK with it, and then all of a sudden the crews are still out there past the time they said they were going to go.”
The “SWAT” production crew is at least one that has cooperated and even compensated businesses, according to several employers at the meeting. “There are ways to coexist,” said Location Manager Aviv Surkin.
In addition to a weekend night filming moratorium, Surkin and others present suggested having a person in downtown Newhall from either the city or a representative of all the area businesses, who could serve as an arbitrator and hold everyone accountable.
Others suggested at least a two-week-long filming notice to allow for businesses to plan and reschedule staff, as well as compensation for all businesses affected. Crawford and Evan Thomason, economic development associate with the city, noted the city might not have legal standing to enforce compensation agreements between productions and local businesses.
City staff collected suggestions and made two announcements as a result of the meeting with business owners: a filming moratorium for Friday and Saturday nights; and a city staff member present on future film days.
A followup meeting in January is expected to review has worked and what other solutions can be implemented.