Downtown New Bedford Opens Up To Half-Marathon Crowd

By Don Cuddy
Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — Maybe you hate to “eat and run.” But how about “run and eat”?
Indeed, Downtown New Bedford Inc. is hoping to whet the appetites of both runners and spectators at the March 15 half marathon with a new program dubbed “The Restaurant Run.”
The free event is aimed at making the most of the crowds who gather in the downtown area to watch the start and finish of the annual race.
“This is small businesses getting creative and working together. With runners, their families and the volunteers, you have around 3,000 people in the city that day and we need to do something,” said Diane Nichols, executive director of Downtown New Bedford Inc.
“We wanted an event that would make downtown a vibrant place to visit on race day. In the past there was a defeatist cycle where the merchants wouldn’t open because they said nobody came downtown, and people didn’t come because they said nothing is open.”
Restaurants, pubs and retailers will pay a fee to participate, Nichols said, and pledge to remain open from noon until 4 p.m. on race day. The fees will be used for advertising and promotional materials, including a map listing participating businesses and any special promotions they might offer on race day, such as free samples at bars and restaurants.
The maps will be available at all downtown locations, e-mailed to all runners who register online and included with the race packet for those runners who sign up on race weekend.
Businesses with liquor licenses that belong to Downtown New Bedford Inc. will pay $75 to participate in the “Run.” Non-members pay $100.
Retailers and coffee shops will pay $25 for members, $35 for non-members.
To encourage visits to downtown, visitors can have their maps stamped at participating locations. Those people who get stamps from at least half of the merchants will be eligible for raffle prizes for items such as hotel stays or plane tickets.
“Getting that stamp will be an incentive for people to visit all of the cool little shops that are opening downtown,” Nichols said. “Just getting them in the doors to have that visual is important.”
There will be no charge for parking downtown on race day and visitors can come and go freely on Route 18, which remains unaffected by the street closures along the race course, Nichols said.
The event evolved from a recent meeting between the mayor, the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick who are staging the race for the first time this year and downtown merchants. All parties were seeking new ways for business owners to take advantage of the race’s popularity.
“We see this as a value added event,” said Steve Beauregard of the Friendly Sons, co-chair of the race committee. “Last year, of the 2,000 runners, only about 80 came from New Bedford. So when we have the people here, let’s give them a look at downtown. If we can’t get them in March because it’s cold, maybe they will come back in the summer for a day trip.”
The “Restaurant Run” has been greeted enthusiastically by downtown merchants, including Kelly Carvalho, who has operated “On a Roll,” a Union Street sandwich shop, for the past four years.
“It’s a great idea,” Carvalho said. “We haven’t opened on race day before but this will bring people who might not normally come downtown and it will give us a chance to show them what we have here.”
For more information visit http://downtownnb.org/
Contact Don Cuddy at doncuddy@s-t.com
February 17, 2009 6:00 AM
Source URL: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090217/NEWS/902170348

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