For Leesburg's Black Hoof Brewery, the first Friday in August was a momentous occasion. The two-year-old brewery was so busy with customers it set a new record for beer sold in a single day.
According to Black Hoof owner Bill Haase, it was all thanks to a special event spearheaded by Nick and Carolyn McCarter, owners of the home decor store 27 South. They called it “Stroll the Streets” and closed a portion of King Street -- from Market to Loudoun Street -- during Leesburg's First Friday from 6:30 to 10 p.m.
Haase said the concept reminded him of events held in the streets of Munich, Germany. His brewery is modeled after German pubs.
“Once you have people walking around the streets, it makes it easier for them to visit your business. It also gives more space to talk to people and have good conversations,” he said.
Stroll the Streets will be back again for September's First Friday. After the success of August's event, the feedback has been “overwhelmingly supportive” for making it a recurring event, Nick McCarter told the Times-Mirror.
“August was successful because it was more family-friendly and larger groups could come out and enjoy the event. We want to continue with that," he said.
Since the August event, McCarter has met with business owners, town officials and Leesburg parks and recreation to discuss lessons learned, what went well and what could be improved upon.
“Restaurants were overflowing with people inside and outside – both in the area along King Street and outside the closed area. It was great weather, which drew in a lot of people. We want to stick with positive momentum and it will still be a great event ... It is a huge improvement for First Friday and Leesburg as a whole,” McCarter said.
One plan for September's event is to add more balloon artists and face painters during the 6-8 p.m. time frame to alleviate long lines.
After 8 p.m., McCarter said the “demographic changed,” and many of the people with young children left to put their kids to bed.
“We thought that natural transition was great, and it allowed the later hours to be more adult friendly,” he said.
McCarter says the ultimate goal is to obtain an Alcoholic Beverage Control license so people are able to consume alcohol in the street. They would also like to add tables and chairs so they can sit down if that's their preference.
“It will take a while to get all of the approvals in place, but our goal is to make it happen in the future,” he said.
Local businesses are working together to get funding secured to pay for expenses related to closing King Street, he said. McCarter footed the bill for the August event. Over the past month, he has received offers from many people who would like to see the event continue.
“We are coordinating the logistics to get the community and businesses to decide what is best for the town. The long-term plan is to expand our footprint, allow alcohol in the streets and food, expand child-friendly entertainment and provide comfort for attendees such as places to sit and restrooms,” McCarter said.
He said they are not looking to add street vendors or booths and tents in the streets, and he added that only the existing businesses will be allowed to sell their food and drinks.
David Mercado, owner of Art Sweet Art on Loudoun Street, said he “could not have been happier” with August's Stroll the Street.
“I saw so many more families with children and strollers. It felt more welcoming and inviting and families felt safer," Mercado said. "There was an upbeat mood and positivity about it."
Don Wilson, owner of Gruto's Soft Serve on King Street, agreed the event was a success.
”I would support extending the street closure down to Royal Street," Wilson, whose shop is just yards away from where the street closure was put in place, said.