What's the reality for small businesses when a reality TV show comes to town to film?
That's the question that was hotly debated among Hoboken, N.J. small business owners and residents the past few weeks as producers of the hit reality TV show "Jersey Shore" sought permission to film a spin-off series there.
On Tuesday, Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer denied the production company’s request for the "Jersey Shore" spin-off, citing safety issues in the densely populated city.
The one-mile square city, located in northern New Jersey just a ferry-ride away from lower Manhattan, is packed with bars, restaurants, and a young, professional population.
“Tens of thousands visit Hoboken every week because it is a bustling, walkable city with a lively arts and music scene, packed sidewalk cafés, vibrant night life, unique shops, and beautiful waterfront parks," Zimmer told CNBC.com in a statement. "The film commission carefully considered the impact on the community and denied a permit to film a reality show based on concerns for public safety and quality of life.”
Debate among local merchants and residents on whether hosting this particular reality TV series would be good or bad for business has been heated, both on the streets and online.
"Well, you know what they say — any publicity is good publicity," Kathleen Childs, manager of Big Fun Toys told CNBC.com. She said that among the business owners she spoke to, the majority were opposed. She wasn't necessarily against it, she said, but "I don't know if I would have been comfortable if they wanted to film in our store. I'm not sure the crowd they attract would be helpful to our business."
Hoboken is already host to another reality TV series, the popular "Cake Boss" on TLC, which attracts lines of visitors to Carlo's Bakery on busy Washington Street. "Some people are unhappy because of the crowds around the bakery," said Childs. "But it does bring in out-of-towners who shop here, and that's not a bad thing."
A post by local merchant Rory Chadwick on TheBoken.com, in mid-January noted that MTV producers had been “asking if local businesses would like to be part to be the show,” then posed the question to fellow merchants: Would the proposed filming be “Good for town or bad?”
Readers responded by poll: 82 percent, or 635 people said it would be bad for Hoboken, while just 11 percent, or 87 voters, said it would be good.
They also posted opinions, such as this, from “Bert Hoboken”: “Small businesses and the local tourist economy in Seaside Heights are doing better than they've done in history since the show first aired. … Hoboken could gain a lot from this.”
And this rebuttal, from “HAP”: I'm glad it’s done great things for businesses in Seaside, but Hoboken is a different dynamic. As a business owner, I truly believe that this sort of crowd the new JS show would bring would overwhelm the population of visitors and consumers many of us are TRYING to get.”
The debate extended beyond Hoboken, as well. André DiMino, the president of the Italian American One Voice Coalition, a national organization that works to eliminate negative stereotyping in the Italian American community, said he had been watching the developments in Hoboken, and applauded the mayor's decision to deny the filming permit.
He said he opposes the show because of the negative stereotypes of Italian Americans, but beyond that, said that businesses in Hoboken would suffer if filming were allowed. "It takes months and months to gain a customer, and seconds to lose them," he said. "If I went to a restaurant and had to fight through crowds, I might never go back. These types of shows are a flash in the pan, and they turn people away."
A bartender and waiter employed by a few Hoboken establishments, including upscale wine bar Bin14, said he understood why the mayor made the decision to deny the permit; however, he didn't see a downside to serving Snooki and J-Woww. "Could I see them filming in a multitude of locations in this town?" said the bartender, who only gave his first name, Chris. "Sure. Would it detract from the city? 'Cake Boss' already clogs the streets. It's a bit of a double-standard."
But Chris seems to be in the minority.
"How about we make the news for refusing them," wrote "HAP" on theBoken.com. "THAT might be good for business!"