PASO ROBLES — A new board president and a slew of new board members has energized the Downtown Paso Robles Main Street Association.

Derek Bettencourt
Derek Bettencourt
Downtown Paso Robles Main Street Association Board President

Like many nonprofits in 2020, the Downtown Paso Robles Main Street Association had its feet knocked out from under it by COVID-19 guidelines that do not allow gatherings of more than 25 people.

Main Street sponsors various events in Downtown Paso Robles throughout the calendar year that bring thousands of people to the area for each activity. The guidelines led to Main Street canceling nearly all of the events.

Without the events, the Main Street Association struggled to find its footing. New Board President Derek Bettencourt says the pandemic has forced Main Street to change.

“I think we have a very balanced board. This pandemic has transitioned us as we have brought on new board members,” said Bettencourt, who works for Jordano’s Food Service. “New ideas, new motivation, and energy that I am trying to harness and put to work as Main Street has had to reinvent itself as all our events that we do in a typical year we have not been able to do as gatherings are not permissible. It’s been tough.”

Bettencourt began helping with Main Street when he was general manager at F. McLintocks Saloon in Paso Robles. He became a board member and continued his involvement after working for Jordano’s about three years ago.

“I’m passionate about our Downtown, our members, our community and have seen over the past how much involvement Main Street has done in beautification, marketing, the different events — Main Street is significant. They helped mold and direct where our Downtown is today. Paso Robles is definitely a shining star.”

The Downtown Paso Robles Main Street program was established in 1988 by current Executive Director Norma Moye. The majority of its funding comes from its membership, events and the City of Paso Robles.

Bettencourt hopes the City continues to support Main Street, the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce and the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance as it has over the years. The City continued its funding for the remainder of 2020 to the entities but indicated that it might be significantly less in 2021.

“We have definitely put our voice out there,” Bettencourt said. “All three of us have done a lot for Paso Robles. I just hope they see it as an investment that is very well paid off.”

The pandemic hit all three sources hard, forcing Main Street to look for new ways to generate revenue and stay true to its core mission — creating a vibrant downtown of shared prosperity, equal access to opportunity, and popular celebrations year-round.

Bettencourt said that one way they will do this is to be more active online, primarily on social media.

“We are going to launch our Love Local Now, Enjoy Local Later campaign,” Bettencourt said. “We are looking to start this at the beginning of December. We are trying to create some buzz not only for Main Street as a fundraiser but also to cross-market and promote our Downtown members and businesses.”

Bettencourt did not want to give too much away about the campaign. He did disclose that it’s going to be an online raffle of packages and prizes working with Main Street’s Downtown merchant members.

“We want to make it fun and exciting,” he said.

Bettencourt said the transition involves a lot of listening.

“As we move forward, we want our members’ input,” he said. “We want to bring events and do things in our Downtown that help our members, that are beneficial for all. We are definitely open to ideas from our members. We want to know their needs. We want to know how we can help them.”

Bettencourt knows events are an essential aspect of Main Street and said the Board is using the mandated downtime to prepare for when guidelines allow events again.

“The events and those types of things when we can, we are going to do it,” Bettencourt said. “We want to make them strong and we are open to suggestions. This is a time when we are pulling back the covers and evaluating everything and making sure that when we come back, what we do is effective and we are unified in doing it.”

The Downtown Lighting Ceremony, the Christmas Light Parade, the Victorian Teddy Bear Tea, and Vine Street Victorian Showcase — all Main Street events — are all canceled.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in the Downtown City Park Holiday House from Dec. 6-24.

“We are encouraging everybody to decorate and light up the Downtown,” Bettencourt said. “We encourage people to drive-through and look at the decorated houses on Vine Street.”

There is no doubt 2020 has been a challenging year, but Bettencourt said Main Street would continue to promote Paso Robles.

“Every weekend, Paso Robles is in high demand,” Bettencourt said. “It is a great place to visit, vacation and stay. You’ve got great wine, great food, wonderful shops, the movie theater, and as we move through the pandemic, live music and the arts. We have a really well-rounded, beautiful Downtown. It’s Main Street’s goal to strengthen that and keep it going.”