17 Comments for this article

Tags: , , , , ,

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington’s Downtown Sundown concerts are designed to attract customers to downtown businesses. But is this concert series having it’s desired effect? One business owner says no.

The Downtown Sundown concert series started in 2006 as a way to help revitalize Downtown Wilmington.

“We’re providing quality family entertainment that attracts people downtown, particularly a demographic that is going to spend their discretionary income on entertainment and food and beverage,” said John Hinnant, executive director of Wilmington Downtown Inc., which sponsors the concert series.

At Kilwin’s Ice Cream on Market Street, lines can be up to an hour long on a Friday night during the summer.

“As soon as the concert lets out there’s a huge rush,” Kinney VanHecke of Kilwin’s said. “My arms are always sore from scooping, and there are always lots of different people coming in.”

A study paid for by WDI shows Kilwin’s is not alone. When the concert series started, the downtown area brought in more than $22 million during the summer. That figure nearly doubled to more than $44 million five years later.

But the series has not been a hit for all involved.

In an e-mail to Wilmington City Council, Pierre Penegre, the owner of Le Catalan, says the fact Downtown Sundown has food and drink vendors, it actually takes customers away from his restaurant.

“I cannot see any sense to the fact that my tax contribution is used to support an organization which is directly competing with my own business,” Penegre, who did not want to talk on camera, wrote.

WDI says it’s just business

“Having the food at the concerts is a part of responsible service,” Hinnant said. “We encourage downtown businesses to come through the concert and promote themselves and promote their businesses.”

Hinnant says because downtown sundown is held in a public park all vendors or restaurants are welcome to freely promote themselves at the event.

Comment on this Story

  • Hometown Guest

    I’d wager the issue is the crowd that these concerts cater to and the type of meal the partygoers are looking for. I’ve been to these concerts and many others in the area. I like the idea of free concerts to get more locals to come out and see the downtown but i’m more than a little discouraged by the crowds that the city of wilmington is attracting. Same goes for the river and azalea festival. Looks like they are sacrificing quality for quantity which tends to always have an ultimately negative effect. The moment I realized that the food, “entertainment”, and crowds at river and azalea festival were lower than the average costco crowd (last year) on a weekend was the moment I decided to no longer attend the bigger festivals until Wilmington injects a little more class into it. The concerts aren’t completely there yet but only a handful are classy, I hate to think of what is on the schedule for next year. Just local DJs blaring their techno style beats as a poor excuse for a free “concert”. This type of free event is fun while it is classy but can quickly become a danger as I have seen in other cities in N.C. Look at chapel hills applechill and festifall as an example. Started out classy and quickly became increasingly less classy and then violent and the city had to shut it down. Now they are trying to start from scratch again.

  • Guest857

    Love those bands! First great thing Wilmington has done since the Ice House was shut down. As for the restaurants, I spend my money but wisely. Dropping $60 (and up) for a dinner for 2 is not wise for my budget. I doubt very seriously that I would ever consider Le Catalan as an option. The owner needs to look for another scapegoat. Seems like WPD is raking in the bucks writing parking tickets. I know they’re happy.

  • 1981duke

    This is a pefect example of Kilwin’s adjusting the opportunity and marketing his product to concert goers.They, Kilwin’s saw this as an opportunity and seized the revenu.
    La Catalan restarant has no-one to blame bit themselves,if they can not capture part of this crowd,this is their problem,not the PATRONS.

Related News