For years, First Friday has been a casual happening in downtown Leesburg — a little extra excitement, as people eat, drink and shop in the historic district.
But this First Friday will be a bit different: A portion of South King Street will be closed to cars, in what’s being called “Stroll the Street.”
Lined with restaurants, bars, bakeries, shops and other businesses, South King Street, from Market to Loudoun streets, will be closed to traffic, from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
“Our goal is provide more space for large families, and large groups, and kids, and pets to have more space to enjoy the First Friday experience, both inside the business and outside,” said Nick McCarter, who owns and operates 27 South Interiors, a furniture shop in downtown Leesburg.
For years, McCarter said he always assumed regulations prohibited road closures during the unofficial First Friday events, which create some additional oomph for residents, businesses and visitors.
“When we looked into it, we found there was a process you could follow to host an event, which would require street closures,” McCarter said.
The popular stretch of King Street is closed for other special events, including the Flower and Garden Festival, but McCarter said the goal of “Stroll the Street” is to let people enjoy what’s already there.
“We’re choosing to not bring vendors and booths and things you’ve seen at other events,” McCarter said.
“Businesses that do have appropriate licenses and permitting to have cafe seating outside, you can have your food and beverages out there,” said McCarter. “There’s not any additional selling, serving, consuming of food, alcohol, or even selling of goods or services.”
McCarter describes this evening as a “proof of concept.”
“We just applied for August. Because we feel this is valuable to the town, we went ahead and paid for it out of our own pockets. It’s a trial run, to see if this is going to add value to the town, the town residents and the town businesses,” he said.
In addition to the permitting fee, the McCarters paid for the police and other town employees needed to staff the event. If the event is a success, “I’ll then make an attempt to bring together the town businesses and residents to fund it.”
“We hope to see a lot of our friends, family and town residents out there, strolling the streets,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of support already from residents saying they feel strongly about this and they would like to contribute to keep this going in the future.”