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4:31 PM Fri, Sept. 21st

Prescott Council nixes Whiskey Row name change

PRESCOTT - The Whiskey Row moniker will continue on as it always has - as a nickname only.

In a 6-0 vote on Tuesday, the Prescott City Council denied the request by downtown merchants to change the name of the 100 block of South Montezuma Street to "Historic Whiskey Row."

The decision was consistent with the recommendations from the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, the Prescott Preservation Commission, and the State Historic Preservation Office.

All agreed that while Whiskey Row is an effective marketing tagline, it should not become the official name of the downtown street.

Council members had obviously heard plenty about the issue from the public as well.

"There is a lot of division," Councilman Chris Kuknyo said. "We got a lot of letters on both sides."

Among the comments were concerns about adding another name to the street's already confusing series of addresses, including White Spar Road, Highway 89, Montezuma Street, Whipple Street, and Iron Springs Road.

In addition, Kuknyo worried that the city would be "replacing one history with another history."

Historic Preservation Specialist Cat Moody explained at the start of the discussion that the name "Montezuma Street" dates back to Prescott's origins in the 1860s, while the "Whiskey Row" nickname came later, and was likely popularized by a 1917 Gail Gardner poem, "Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail."

Downtown businessman Dave Michelson, who approached the council about the name change in September, stressed that the original petition for the change included the names of all 33 Whiskey Row merchants.

Although one of those merchants had since had a change of heart, Michelson stated that the vast majority of merchants were on board with the name change.

"We feel that there's no reason not to change the name," said Michelson, owner of the Palace Restaurant and Saloon.

David Seigler, owner of the Whiskey Row eatery Devil's Pantry, added his support for the name change, maintaining that it would help to reduce confusion among tourists about the location of Whiskey Row.

But opponents, including Montezuma Street property owner Mark Favour, questioned the need for the name change.

"Yes, I'm all for historic Whiskey Row, but I really think it comes down to marketing," Favour said.

He also emphasized the expense that would be involved with changing legal documents and licenses. "It would involve federal (government) all the way down to the local municipality," he said.

As an alternative to the name change, Councilman Charlie Arnold proposed that downtown merchants and city officials work toward a long-term, comprehensive plan for improving the signs in the downtown area.

Arnold offered to help guide the discussion, and he suggested that the council revisit the matter in about three months.

After the meeting, Michelson said he would be interested in participating in such a discussion.

"Maybe this got the council's attention," he said, adding, "There is no downside."

Mayor Marlin Kuykendall declared a conflict of interest on the matter and did not participate in the discussion or the vote. The conflict stemmed from Kuykendall's ownership of a website domain, whiskeyrowaz.com.

After the meeting, the mayor said a city decision to rename the street could have resulted in an economic plus for the website, which he has owned for about nine years.