Rutland Considers Expanding Weekly Block Party

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(Host)  Rutland will wrap up its fifth season of Friday Night Live block parties tonight.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, good weather has helped boost attendance.

(Keck) Hundreds of people strolled through downtown Rutland on a recent Friday evening, savoring the live music and outdoor dining almost as much as the balmy weather.

(Baker) "Well, Friday Night live certainly gives us better income on a Friday night than we would usually have – probably almost double our revenue."

(Keck)  That’s Bob Baker. He recently purchased Sabby’s, an Italian restaurant across from the Paramount Theater.  

He says when he was looking at potential restaurant locations, being able to take advantage of the theater and outdoor festivals was an obvious plus.

(Baker) "You can count on 6-7 Friday Night Lives during the summer times and that really helps out. I think it helps out in the way they see downtown. People don’t come down here a lot unless they have business or something. And then they come down on Friday Night Live and go, ‘Oh, wait, here’s Sabby’s food. Here’s Ernie’s sandwiches. Here’s this. Here’s that.’"

(Keck) Beth Dulli, owner of the Book King, says her business triples during Friday Night Live.

(Dulli) "The long-term impact is good, too, because people realize I’m here so they make a point of coming later. A lot of people see the store for the first time."

(Keck) Michael Coppinger, executive director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership, which organizes Friday Night Live, says on average, if the weather’s good, about 1,000 people attend the weekly block parties.  He says, considering the event’s success, many have suggested expanding it beyond Center Street.  

(Coppinger) "We have been talking about that a lot. We’ve been having conversations with store owners that would benefit.  Now we have to make the jump to working with city government. Because, obviously, the city owns the streets and sidewalks. We need to get them on board through some consultants and through some testing."

(Keck) Coppinger says they’ll apply for development grants to fund those efforts.  

He says they just finished a traffic study to assess  and improve traffic flow and access to the downtown on Wales and Evelyn Streets.   

Coppinger says results from that study will be useful in upcoming discussions about Friday Night Live.  

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.  

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