Restaurant owner says downtown concerts hurt, don’t help business


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.

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“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.