By Amanda Simmons, firstname.lastname@example.org
Business owners in Bossier’s East Bank District say they are still waiting for foot traffic to increase on Barksdale Boulevard.
Efforts to put festivals in Festival Plaza have hit a few snags since the East Bank District officially opened late last year. The Bossier City Council recently rejected bids to hire an events manager for the district and spent months before debating the allowance of open containers of alcohol.
The open container issue was resolved in April. Bossier City Attorney Jimmy Hall has a letter from the office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control confirming that the Festival Plaza area is exempt from the open-container regulation.
However, there has only been one festival held so far in the East Bank district in 2018, which was the first-ever Corn Dog Busker Arts Festival in March.
Rather than continue waiting on the city, businesses are taking matters into their own hands.
A Facebook page was created to inform the public of upcoming events being hosted at the various businesses in the East Bank district.
“We were sold on the idea to move here based on promises of what was coming,” said Kristi Tift, a business owner in the district. “I’m very thankful to have my businesses here, but it’s time to move things along.”
Tift owns several businesses in East Bank, including Retro 521 Coffee, Cafe & Venue, Destiny Day Spa and The Salon. She has invited other business owners to a meeting next week at Retro 521 to discuss ways of bringing people to downtown that doesn’t require using the festival plaza.
“We’re going to do this together,” she said. “As a group of like-minded people, we can create our own events that happen in our businesses that doesn’t require using the plaza. Some of us have invested all we have in our businesses. It’s getting better and I believe it’s going to continue getting better if we work together.”
The $15 million re-envisioning project gave downtown Bossier new roadway surfaces, new and upgraded utilities, bicycle lanes, new landscaping, LED lights, and a new plaza space across from the Bossier Arts Council. Other area business owners have a mixed reaction to activity in East Bank.
Derrick Harris has watched downtown significantly grow through the years, from his days as a Bossier Bearkat to a business owner for more than a decade.
“The area has really changed,” he said. “A lot more people are interested in the area. It used to be a place people would cut through to get to the casinos. Now we see people driving slower and looking at the businesses.”
He and his wife, Vanette, own the VH Barber & Styling Academy on Barksdale Boulevard. Harris said they’ve been through tough times before with the road construction, but are reaping the benefits now that it’s finished.
“Any investment in the area was a plus for us,” Harris said. “We have things now that we didn’t have before. It just required a little patience.”
Beau Hays is the new kid on the East Bank block. Hays co-owns BeauxJax Crafthouse and The Rouxgaroux Bar, which is still under construction at the corner of Barksdale Boulevard and Minden Street.
Hays said they hope to open sometime in early July. He’s excited to be part of the East Bank district and eager to work with the other established businesses.
“We’ve prepared ourselves to be part of the area as it continues to develop. I want to see a festival every weekend and more foot traffic through here,” Hays said. “It’s still a work in progress and takes time, but we’re in it for the long haul.”
Hays hopes their restaurant will serve as a catalyst for future growth.
“We have a clientele that follows us and will come into the district,” he said. “We just need to get those people in here to explore all of what East Bank has to offer.”
Retro 521 Coffee, Cafe & Venue will be hosting a Makers Market this summer that offers all ages something to see, do and taste. They’ve put a unique spin on the traditional indoor/outdoor market with hopes of bring the community together. Retro 521 will host the event inside its newly expanded location and outside in the large lot located directly behind Retro 521. Event dates are July 15 and 29 and Aug. 12 and 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.