MINNEAPOLIS — Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and this year Minneapolis is working to make downtown nightlife more welcoming... by re-routing traffic.
On Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer, the city of Minneapolis is closing down one block of First Avenue North from Fifth Street to Sixth Street in order to open it up to pedestrians.
Warehouse District Live will run from 7 p.m.-3 a.m. every Friday and Saturday until Halloween. The block parties will feature different activities, entertainment, food trucks, places to eat, and portable restrooms.
"We've known for a long time that there are some basic needs that need to be met for people who are coming downtown to have a good experience," said Ben Shardlow, director of urban design for the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District. "We have a lot of people coming downtown, they want space to move, have fun, find late-night food, and we also know that it can be hard to find restrooms."
John Stein, owner of The Loon Cafe, located at the corner of First Avenue and Fifth Street, is staying open-minded about the strategy.
"There's a beautiful weekend ahead of us, so let's give it a try," Stein said. "We're all for it."
Stein has owned The Loon Cafe for the past 41 years, but he says the last three years brought a fundamental shift in business.
"One of the main changes is the number of people working in the buildings surrounding us is dramatically changed," he said. "There are far fewer people during the weekdays, so the events are even more important to us. The Twins and Lynx and Twolves and Vikes, those are the key... concerts and such too."
Downtown Minneapolis leaders have noticed the shift too. Recent visitor data and surveys found that sports, concerts, and other event traffic has surpassed pre-pandemic levels, at a time when little else has.
"It's not different or surprising for there to be 5 or 10 thousand people who are already choosing to come down here to have fun, be entertained, see their friends and socialize," Shardlow said. "This Warehouse District Live event is really about them."
The decision to carry the concept throughout the entire summer and early fall is based on two weekend pilot activations that were deemed successful last September and October.
"We learned last year what worked," said Minneapolis city council member Michael Rainville. "This year we're going to build on that and we're committed to doing this the whole summer long."
Rainville, says the plan is also aimed at addressing any lingering security concerns in this busy area.
"The layers of safety will revolve around this event," he said. "It's the traffic enforcement agents manning the barriers, it's violence interrupters who start at 11 at night, it's private security and of course, it's the police. Metro Transit is also involved, as well as the Hennepin County Sheriff."
Erdahl: "Will the events here change throughout the summer?"
Ben Shardlow: "They're going to change a lot. The food trucks are going to be different every week, the free activities and entertainment are going to be different every week. And we're really going to be asking people when they're down here what do you want your entertainment district to be? What do you want to do when you're here?"
Minneapolis Trolley Bus Adds New Minneapolis Nightlife Loop
If you're wondering about getting around downtown, especially with the new street closure, there is also a new transportation option for those looking to get around and visit some bar and restaurant districts around Minneapolis on Friday and Saturday nights.
Last weekend a new company called Minneapolis Trolley began offering a new "hop on, hop off' Downtown Loop service.
Norman Kolba, owner of Minneapolis Trolley told KARE11 about the new option.
Kolba: "The hop on hop off is $15 per ticket and it allows you to get on and off along the route from 4 p.m. to midnight. We have nine stops through downtown and this particular loop is focused on downtown restaurants and cocktail lounges.
Kent Erdahl: "And then people can get on and get off but how often can they expect to see it come back?"
Kolba: "So it loops every single hour. If you scan those QR codes, or if you go to the website, you can click the link and it gives you a live... up to three seconds of where the trolley is."
Watch more Breaking The News:
Watch all of the latest stories from Breaking The News in our YouTube playlist: