'First Friday every Friday' measure brings high hopes

It’s not the first Friday of the month, but it may feel like it in downtown Macon tonight.

In an effort to parlay the success of the First Friday downtown events into weekly happenings, the City Council approved a measure this week that relaxes the open container laws so people can take alcoholic drinks outside restaurants and nightclubs. First Friday events are generally a mix of music, arts, dining and theater.

“It’s a soft opening for the first two weeks,” said Kris Hattaway, the director of place for NewTown Macon, the nonprofit downtown booster that agreed to sponsor the events. With the Cherry Blossom Festival going on the next two weekends, she said there isn’t a need for special programming.

Plus, the soft opening gives downtown merchants more time to come up with special offerings on future Fridays.

Tonight, the Hummingbird Stage and Taproom features Stewart & Winfield, an alt-country cult favorite from Athens. Hummingbird co-owner Tim Oblegoner said First Friday will remain a special night at “the Bird” but he plans to take “full advantage” of the new ordinance with “excellent drink specials” and compelling live music.

“It’s going to change the culture and the attitude downtown,” Oblegoner said. “The relaxed regulations will lead to a relaxed atmosphere, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

At the Synergy nightclub, co-owner Alex Webb said that tonight will be like most other Friday nights, but soon his club will be kicking off an entirely new series.

It starts with the return of 1980s pop star Tiffany next Friday and continues with a partnership with Warner Brothers Records to do special release parties such as Madonna’s new DVD release.

Webb said he hopes the new ordinance will bring more than just new visitors to downtown.

“I want other businesses to see this and move downtown,” he said, talking about the crush of people that attend most First Friday events.

Julie Wilkerson, director of the Cox Capitol Theatre, said tonight’s offering, an Elvis impersonator named Todd Allen, is perfect for the new Friday night events, though he was booked well in advance of the City Council ordinance.

While tickets to Allen’s show are somewhat pricey — $15 for general admission and $35 for floor seats — Wilkerson said she plans to do “a lot more dollar nights” at the theater, an open house-type atmosphere with dollar admission prices for movies and bargains on food.

Hattaway said she thinks the weekly Friday event caters to people who want to explore downtown, and it isn’t about people getting drunk.

“It isn’t so you can bring your own cooler and walk around downtown,” she said, noting drinks are only served in specially designated cups from downtown bars and restaurants.

To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.