While resident objection to the noise and other nuisances has the future of a summer fireworks series in question, some seawall business operators say the displays bring customers in on Sunday nights.
The displays last five minutes on 14 Sunday nights from June to August. The Galveston Park Board of Trustees began the firework displays in 2017 to encourage weekend visitors to stay an extra night.
But complaints about noise, including that it scares pets, smoke and paper debris from residents of the island’s southeast neighborhoods have put into question a contract that would extend the Sunday fireworks another year.
This decision wouldn’t affect the city’s popular July 4 display, which is a separate event.
The Sunday fireworks really do drive more business to seawall bars and restaurants, Javier Velez, general manager of The Spot, said.
If people are already out, then fireworks will encourage them to stay out longer or come into The Spot, 3204 Seawall Blvd., Velez said.
“It just brings a fun event to the island,” Velez said. “I’d say that there’s a measurable impact,” Velez said.
The fireworks are launched from the 37th Street groin, a rock slab structure extending into the Gulf, to meet fire marshal standards, park board officials said.
The summer is already busy, but having fireworks to attract people to the seawall drives business even more, said Evelyn Eisenhour at Float Pool & Patio Bar, 2828 Seawall Blvd.
“The fireworks definitely help because it just gives people a reason to come down,” Eisenhour said.
She’s lived in Galveston for more than 10 years and, as a pet owner herself, understands resident concerns with noise, but fireworks are positive for the island, she said.
Short-term rentals in the area benefit as well, Greg Krueger said.
He has owned a vacation rental for about 15 years on Ave. S and 41st Street and last rented out the property this fall, he said.
“I don’t see it as a hinderance to any neighbors since its only for a real short burst of time,” Krueger said.
People did stay an extra Sunday night during the past two years when the firework displays occurred, he said.
“From a business standpoint, I think that’s what Galveston needs,” Krueger said.
For hotels, the effect of fireworks on rooms booked is more nebulous, said Steve Cunningham, a Wyndham Hotel Group hotel complex general manager.
He manages Hotel Galvez and Spa, 2024 Seawall Blvd., among others.
“I know for a fact that it helps me but I can’t measure it,” Cunningham said.
Instead of causing a direct effect, the fireworks contribute to a portfolio of tourist attractions that keep people on the island longer, Cunningham said.
“There’s a lot of little things in Galveston that are not the reason people come here but it keeps them here,” Cunningham said.
But the benefits to business aren’t worth the annoyance for some residents, those opposed to the events argue.
Since January, more people in the neighborhoods near the seawall have expressed concern about the firework displays, resident Wayne Holt said.
“The initial interest was definitely the impact on neighborhoods with the sound,” Holt said.
Now, residents are also concerned about the potential environmental impacts of debris from displays.
The 14 fireworks displays have cost the park board more than $60,000 each year, according to park board records.
In January, the park board trustees decided to postpone a decision on renewing the contract to a meeting scheduled for later this month. Trustees also want to explore alternative entertainment that could draw in visitors.