[Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part series examining the East Bank District in Bossier City. Read part one here.]
While new business is one piece of the puzzle, another element to East Bank is events and entertainment at its East Bank Plaza space.
Scott Irwin, Bossier City Councilman for District 1, has been vocal at recent city council meetings and in local media about his lack of satisfaction with the type of events and no street performers in the district.
He has said that the city approved a special street performers permit and no one has taken advantage of it. He says his criticism comes from a place of wanting to make the most out of the city’s development.
Robin Jones is executive director of the Bossier Arts Council, which manages and secures events for the East Bank Plaza. She said the lack of street performers populating the Shreveport-Bossier area and the variety of in-door locations to perform in the district are to blame for that.
“Those that perform, typically live music, these days usually play in dive bars, casinos, private venues, or community events, which don’t require a special permit,” Jones said. “Although the concept of the street performer permit is exciting, we don’t think it is getting a lot of action because there are plenty of locations for people to perform in the district already — four of the businesses here have stages and pay their performers.”
She added that maybe the fact that performers cannot ask for tips and must pay to play could also be a deterrent.
“We are not Austin, New Orleans, or Nashville. We are Bossier and maybe we lack street performers here because that isn’t our culture. We try and promote the best we can, but you can’t force performers to apply,” Jones said. “Regardless, the East Bank District is alive and well, whether musicians and artists are performing in the plaza, or inside of one of the local businesses.”
She went on to note that the East Bank District has been booming with activity almost every night. She cited special events for the release of a new beer at Flying Heart Brewing and Pub, live music, charity events, and festivals as some of the events going on at East Bank.
She added that within the past three months, the plaza has held 10 events. She said each event ranges anywhere from 50 to more than 100 guests on average, while the Kegs and Corks, The Gritonian Music Festival, and the SBC Zombie Walk had well over 500 guests.
“We are quickly becoming THE place to stay and play,” Jones said. “(These events) do not include the events held throughout the entire district where the businesses host live music and game nights. The district is always busy,” said Jones.
The Bossier Arts Council’s job is to manage the contracts for those that wish to present events in The East Bank plaza, to serve as a liaison for Bossier City, and to ensure that all requirements for rental are met. In addition, they promote the area on the East Bank District and Plaza Facebook page, BAC Facebook page, BAC Instagram, and BAC Twitter, as well as place it on the BAC’s calendar which directly connects to the city’s calendar.
In her view, Jones said the city’s upgrades to the East Bank District has brought foot traffic, income, and interest in events.
“The East Bank District and Plaza has experienced growth in more ways than one. Firstly, each of the businesses in the district have been doing exponentially well in their traffic and earnings, and the events held here have been growing and acquiring more of a community presence. We constantly see foot traffic after office hours between businesses, because it seems guests take advantage of the open container and walk through the district to experience it all,” Jones said. “On top of that, we get more inquiries on our social media and over the phone regarding how to put on events here, which is great because we can never have too much activity.”
She also noted that guests who have visited the district have made several complements about the growth of the area.
“Most guests visiting the district have showered the East Bank in compliments regarding its delicious local foods, great brews, freedom to roam atmosphere, bike and pedestrian friendly layout, and on top of that, safety. Several guests have visited our East Bank Theatre and Gallery and expressed how different the East Bank is compared to the rest of the city, and how safe and welcome they feel,” said Jones.