Police Commission Wants Caffeine & Carburetors Town-Run


The grassroots Caffeine & Carburetors gathering of classic car enthusiasts in New Canaan has grown so popular that it should be viewed as a town-run event with more formal planning and execution, officials said Wednesday.

About 700 cars and 4,000-plus people—automobile owners and spectators—came to the 2014 debut of Caffeine & Carburetors two Sundays ago, members of the New Canaan Police Commission said at a meeting held in the department’s South Avenue headquarters.

Caffeine & Carburetors, April 6, 2014.

Caffeine & Carburetors, April 6, 2014.

Though feedback was widely positive, a post-mortem on the event unearthed several changes that could be made, including whether Zumbach’s Gourmet Coffee continues to play the very same role.

“In principal, I would be very supportive of the event. But the feeling I get is that at this point it’s gotten so big that it really is a town event,” Police Commission Chairman Stuart Sawabini said.

“It’s not Doug [Zumbach]’s event anymore. It was Doug’s event when it was five or six cars and his friends and friends of friends showed up for a cup of coffee. But when you take over the entire town and you’ve got 28 people trying to direct traffic and park and you’ve got three major streets shut down, it’s now become a town event. And now the question is: Is it meeting the town’s expectations of a town event?”

If it were, the commissioners said, changes may include that exhibitors for the sake of traffic flow should register ahead of time so that they know exactly where to park, more use should be made of the commuter train station lot for spectators, Port-A-Potties should be furnished for attendees and only officials certified to direct parking should be doing so.

Police Capt. Vincent DeMaio said he’s only heard positive feedback on the event, though he also recognized that “there’s a tipping point” in terms of how much auto and foot traffic the town reasonably can handle, and how often. Discussions are underway to increase the number of police downtown for Caffeine & Carburetors (it runs 8 to 11:30 a.m.), as well as members of the New Canaan citizen group “CERT” (Community Emergency Response Team) and Zumbach’s volunteers.

Questions also were raised as to how the town now finds itself working so hard to accommodate a private enterprise.

“Why is New Canaan trying to turn itself upside-down for a private merchant who’s got an event?” Police Commission Secretary Sperry DeCew said. “I mean, 4,000 people, 700 cars. Are we here to be an exhibit for a private individual on a Sunday morning? I don’t get it.”

Commissioner Paul Foley spoke in favor of the event as a way to help the town’s businesses.

“What this exhibit has done is to bring a lot of people from New Canaan who have cars in their garages, into town to exhibit them,” he said. “Nothing is for sale. It has brought in a number of people from outside the community who would not normally ever go to New Canaan on a Sunday morning, to buy breakfast and buy food and other things. All the restaurants were open and all the restaurants were making money. Our job is to help the merchants and to help the people in town be successful in their operations.”

This year marks the first that Caffeine & Carburetors expanded from Pine Street, jogging up Park Street to the train station and then running halfway down Elm toward Main Street. (One other change that will be implemented right away is that, for people who need to pick up prescriptions from Walgreens on Pine, Zumbach will pay for home delivery on that Sunday as required, the DeMaio said.)

Caffeine & Carburetors historically has run on six Sundays between April and November (taking off July and August) and had been penciled in to run on those dates this year, though just two events formally have received approval from the town’s special events committee. Commissioners questioned whether the full six would be possible, given the logistics and what’s required from CERT and police.

“We’re going to reach a tipping point,” DeMaio said. “There’s a finite amount of area that we can put that volume of traffic and people downtown.”

“It’s like we’re doing a little mini-Fourth of July right downtown, and my luxury of doing a Fourth of July is that I have 25 officers there,” he added. “So we’re built to handle that kind of flow.”

DeMaio said plans for the next Caffeine & Carburetors include more signage for parking, ensuring clear traffic flow for St. Aloysius parishioners and shutting down all of Elm Street between Main and Park (not just from South Avenue).

Sawabini said that, without a more detailed plan, he would not be in favor of extending Caffeine & Carburetors beyond the approved two Sundays.

“I want to be supportive of it, but until I hear a lot more details, I would not vote in favor,” he said. “Again, I think it’s great value for the town. But we need to make it even better for the next time.”

Here’s a video from the first Caffeine & Carburetors event (featuring an original tune from New Canaan Music):

One thought on “Police Commission Wants Caffeine & Carburetors Town-Run

  1. ANY peaceful event that brings 4,000 people into New Canaan on a Sunday should be completely embraced in my opinion. These are people who will explore our town, shop our shops, eat at our restaurants, and spend money! If C&C can run six events, let’s do all of the dates! As soon as you squash the event to a maximum of two gatherings and require registration, the fun and feel will be gone. I understand labor is needed to run the event but I am more than willing to bet volunteers will happily fill in as needed. Putting 25 cops on overtime sounds ridiculous to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *