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Concerts could lure shoppers

Concerts will be held downtown every Friday for six weeks starting tonight in an attempt to bring more people to the area to shop and dine.

Tonight's performance is by Willie Lomax Blues Review.

Organizers hope the series of concerts at Station Square Park on Cleveland Street will attract both area employees who will stop by after work and people who are looking for a reason to come downtown.

Bennetta Slaughter, an organizer who heads up the Clearwater Beautification and Development Association, said one way to bring more shoppers downtown is to have interesting activities and destination points such as concerts.

"It's a really good reason for them to come downtown," Slaughter said.

The concerts will be held each Friday between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. at the park between Garden and East avenues.

Organizers are encouraging stores, which usually close at 5 or 6 p.m., to stay open until at least 8:30 p.m.

"If the stores get enough feedback from the people, they'll stay open," said Les Spitts, owner of Mooko International furniture store. "This is sort of a trial run."

Some stores, such as Mooko, Clearwater Books, the Salt Water Fly Fisherman and Scruples Unlimited, plan to stay open late.

"We're going to give it a go and try it," said Mikki Edelstein, owner of Scruples, which sells Hollywood and sports memorabilia. "That's the way you bring up a business. I'll try anything. A customer is a customer."

Some restaurants will start their own entertainment after the concerts end or will sell food at the park. About a half-dozen booths at the park will sell food from Border Grill, Rosy's Mexican Restaurant and others. The Rotary Club will sell beer for $2.

Concertgoers can park for free after 5:30 p.m. at the parking garages on Garden Avenue and Pierce Street or after 6 p.m. on streets.

Organizers raised about $8,000 from sponsors and retailers to pay for the concert series.

Station Square Park will hold about 300 people at once. Organizers hope 500 to 600 people each night listen to jazz, blues or rock.

Several hundred people began turning out for lunchtime concerts at the park in March and April. The lunchtime and nighttime concerts will resume again in the fall.

The nighttime concerts, sponsored by the city and various downtown business associations, will run until June 5, when another annual concert series begins at Coachman Park.

Diane Smith, the city's downtown manager, said she wants to find a way to better connect the Coachman Park concerts to businesses. Those concerts run each Friday in June and July.

Concert schedule