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New Night on the Town

April 19’s downtown merchants celebration morphs

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We wandered door-to-door on that third Thursday in October, card in hand, a sort of trick or treat for Unicef minus the Unicef boxes, minus change from the individuals who rewarded our presence with samplings of wine.

It was a surreal night downtown, with haphazard and uber-friendly crowds wandering from point to point, enjoying the community of people, mostly with an arts-ish focus.

Each Tacoma spot had its own vibe: the tres-cool young hipsters hung at Jr Bizarre, while the more serious arts folk hung at galleries such as Two Vaults.  I spent most of my time somewhere in between the two, at the Sanford & Son shops, and I met Michaela, Cindy Sorrell, the Barker sisters. In December, the frenzy abated somewhat, and then in February the Third Thursday Wine Wobble, er, Night on the Town suffered another blow: the Health Department discovered what was going on, as did the liquor control authorities, ostensibly via a (not named) restaurateur whistle blower.

Consequently, things have changed since those halcyon days, and will continue changing.

The whole Night on the Town thing began with a conversation between a few friends: Lisa Kinoshita of Mineral, Katy Jayne of Rocky & Coco, and Rebecca Dashow of Dame Lola thought it might be kind of fun to have a wine tasting, food sampling, late shopping event in May of last year, concurrent with the Third Thursday Art Walk.  “It was a community oriented thing; wine was a draw,” explains Dashow of the genesis of the event.

The idea took off, with eight merchants total, and in August, as it grew further, Dashow handed off the organizational baton to Chris Curtis, an events organizer who is currently working with the Night on the Town in its next incarnation, as it involves 20 merchants — some of whom are from the original lineup, some of whom are not.

“We have some new ones, we’ve lost a couple — it seems to be the case every month; we do a bit of juggling and manage to get twenty,” Curtis explains.

When the event hits next Thursday, April 19, --which is,in fact, third Thursday-- it will feel different than other months.  Free wine? Not so much.  Free gifts? Yep.

And there will still be libations, for $5.  Over the Moon Café will provide a red wine tasting, while DjembeSOUL will offer a white wine tasting.  Puget Sound Pizza, with brand-spankin’-new downstairs bar, will offer a beer tasting, while One Heart will offer inspiring sips of a caffeinated variety.

For this go-around, art will still be featured, and many of the same faces will smile as you walk in the door to look at their art, from Metropolitan Veterinarian past Ruby Collection on down to Moroccan Treasures and beyond.

But for the next Night on the Town, prepare for big changes. 

In order to limit competition with the major museums, the Downtown Merchants Group has come up with the next campaign, set to fully take off concurrent when the Farmers Market hits Broadway.

At that point, Night on the Town will happen on the second Tuesday of the month, when merchants will still stay open late and work on a top secret, secret-squirrel passport system, Go Local!, in conjunction with Pierce Transit.

Go Local! will be an every Thursday event, with the Night on the Town promoting art and artists at a grass-roots level on second Thursdays.

Cheryl Gorsuch, 20-year veteran merchant on the Theater District, seems excited by most of the changes.  Gone are the days when you could roll a bowling ball down St Helens; as things evolve, she predicts, “After the farmer’s market, you will stay!” and as you stay, you may enjoy the live music, cabaret acts, and spoken word at Sanford & Son, since it is, according to Gorsuch, “the heartbeat” of Tacoma — seven roads intersect into the area where businesses are individually owned.  “The whole charm is right here in Mayberry,” explains Gorsuch, and as you wander around Sanford & Son, you can’t help but feel that it’s true.

Gorsuch quotes an unattributable saying as she looks positively toward the future of the Thursday night happenings: “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

Equally, Curtis says she’s “looking at the glass half full.”  She describes the changes as “an escalating vortex of positive,” and predicts, “I think it’s only going to get better and better.”

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