Businesses hope First Friday, Social District, draws big crowds

Michael Perchick Image
Friday, March 3, 2023
Businesses hope First Friday, Social District, draws big crowds
Nearly seven months after the launch of the Sip N' Stroll program a Raleigh business owner has been pleased with the results.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Nearly seven months after the launch of the Sip N' Stroll program, Crank Arm Brewing owner Adam Eckhardt has been pleased with the results.

"It isn't hard to see what the impact is because we actually have done the metrics on seeing that. And so in the time that the social district's been open, we've sold about 5,000 drinks out the door. So we actually know what that is. And that was about a month ago," said Eckhardt.

Located on West Davie Street, Eckhardt believes the Social District is helping draw people out, and encourage those already downtown to explore areas they don't typically frequent.

"I think it helps connect us to the different areas. Fayetteville Street really isn't what it was pre-pandemic. And so, the hope is that, with folks moving freely between here and Red Hat (Amphitheatre) and Fayetteville Street and other points east, that it brings downtown as a connector," Eckhardt said.

"I think it's really important for art and culture institutions downtown to be a part of the social district. There's folks visiting our town that want to be able to have a drink in hand and move around. And if that helps them come and visit us and see what Raleigh is all about, I think it's a great option. But I do think it's going to take a little bit more time for it to catch on with a lot of folks," added David Moore, Director of Community Engagement for ArtSpace.

ArtSpace is also participating in First Friday, joining other galleries in highlighting exhibitions.

"It's important for local artists to have a place to showcase because this is how they can get discovered. This is how they can have future opportunities to further their career, whether that's a collector purchasing their work or leading to another exhibition opportunity with a museum or another art gallery," Moore said, pointing to the work of Clarence Heyward.

A spokesperson for Downtown Raleigh Alliance said they don't have data, ranging from sales to foot traffic, currently available to showcase the Social District's impact, though they hope to have a better sense within the next couple months.

A number of cities and towns have established Social District's of their own over the past several months, including Garner, which launched this week, and Durham, which started in December.

"We had a big kick-off of the downtown event on December 3rd. We did have about 10,000 people come out for that event, it was our downtown tree lighting event. Businesses around the area sold out of all their 'Bullpen' cups, there were a lot of people out drinking, enjoying the festivities. But since then, and kind of due to wintertime and colder months, there's not been a ton of activity. So we're really looking forward to spring and summer," said Tiffany Bashore, Director of Business Engagement for Downtown Durham Inc.

Bashore noted visitor traffic has returned to pre-pandemic levels, but they needed more data to share the economic impact of their Social District. She added they have received interest from some businesses outside the boundaries who are interested in participating, as well as possibly expanding the times of the program to capitalize on the weekend brunch crowd.

"Especially with the (Durham) Bulls coming back, and some more outdoor festivals and events and just nicer weather, I think we'll see a big increase over the next few months," Bashore said.