Dec. 17, 2003 – The sound of bacchanalian rhythms from Imagination Brass drifting along the Charlotte Amalie waterfront on Tuesday night was a welcome change from the near silence that has reigned there in recent years.
There was a time, largely relegated these days to the memories of islanders who were a part of it, when downtown got cookin' after the sun went down; when locals and visitors mixed it up in a myriad of clubs and bars until the wee hours, living the limin' life. But then, crime and/or its perception among residents and tourists alike began to drive nightlife out of Charlotte Amalie to other areas of St. Thomas.
Now, however, if Jim Armour, Maria Ferraras and Ken Chappa, co-creators of Tuesday's Downtown Destination Nite, have anything to say about it, the excitement of Charlotte Amalie after dark may have a shot at returning.
The idea, as the trio stated last weekend (see "New event set to revive downtown nightlife"), is, first, to get residents downtown to reclaim it for themselves; and then, to welcome visitors — particularly those from Tuesday's late-staying cruise ships this season — to a lively town ambience of dining, shopping and dancing.
So after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, when most of downtown had closed up shop for the day, the waterfront section between Pizza Hut and The Tradewinds Shop stayed open. And from a music tent set up in the emptied parking lot in front of Palm Passage, Imagination Brass sounded the opening notes of St. Thomas's newest effort at wresting downtown away from those who've been holding it hostage for the last few years.
Armour and Ferraras, of Armour Enterprises, and Chappa, manager of Tavern on the Waterfront, teamed up with corporate sponsors Topa Properties and Bellows International to provide the entertainment, lighting and publicity for Destination Downtown. And more than a dozen retailers and restaurants supplied the venue, keeping their doors open until 7 p.m. or later.
Mary Rush, manager of the Beans Bytes & Websites coffeehouse and Internet café in Royal Dane Mall, said traffic kept up until long after her usual closing time on Tuesday. "It'll probably take a few weeks to really get busy down here," she, "but I'm glad to see this kind of thing happening in town, and I think it will work."
Silver World, Into The Sea Local Arts, and White House/Black Market were among the other shops that kept their lights and registers turned on for the event.
Armour, who could be seen throughout the night's inaugural party checking in with restaurateurs and retailers, said he was pleased with both the turnout and the business participation. "We're expecting it will take about four weeks to really attract the numbers we're hoping for," he said, "but we're very happy with tonight. Normally at this hour it's dead quiet here, but the restaurants are starting to fill up, the bands playing, there's people in the shops. It's a good night."
Armour and his associates secured the cooperation of the Police Department, whose presence was strongly felt throughout the night; island taxi associations, which agreed to deliver visitors back to their hotels or ships at a reduced fare; and a number of hotels, which had their concierge desks pushing the event.
As the organizers see it, this all means that next Tuesday night, and every Tuesday night at least until Carnival, will present residents with the opportunity to take back downtown's tarnished nightlife and make it shine.
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