VENICE – Venice MainStreet will host Classic Evenings on the Avenues, from 5-7 p.m. Oct. 8 and 22, in an effort to bring shoppers downtown.
The nonprofit, which is tasked to enhance and promote the downtown business district, has been unable to stage Wine Walks and other events designed to encourage people to visit the island of Venice, because the city has suspended all event permits.
Classic Evenings will feature musicians performing at host businesses along Venice and Miami avenues.
Masks are required both indoors and outdoors in the city of Venice. Permits are not required, because the musicians are all performing on private property and Venice MainStreet will not be selling alcoholic beverages.
In addition to the musicians, the Antique Automobile Club of America Venice Region chapter is hosting its “Classin’ up the Joint” meetup – members will park their classic cars throughout the avenues.
Venice MainStreet CEO Kara Morgan said, since the organization can’t pull permits to stage regular events because of COVID-19, this is one way to safely attract patrons with the hope that the extra boost will help downtown businesses and give local musicians a rare forum to perform.
“Hopefully it will help the downtown businesses make their rent for the month of October,” Morgan said.
“We’re using all local musicians too,” she added. “These are local people who haven’t been able to play at bars or restaurants, they haven’t been able to play in any public venue at all.”
Venice MainStreet event coordinator Nick Sperry, a local musician himself, said everybody in the area needs work.
On Oct. 8, businesses will be hosting the following musicians: The David Dewitt Duo, tuba and sax, playing jazz at the Merchants of Venice Building on Miami Avenue West; Dana from Kettle of Fish, classic rock guitar and vocals, at the Burgundy Square breezeway on Miami Avenue West; Forrest Shafer on guitar and vocals at Made in Italy on West Venice Avenue; Swinging Bridge Bluegrass Band at Venice Avenue Creamery on West Venice Avenue; and Bain Beakley, guitar and vocals classic rock, at Daiquiri Deck on West Venice Avenue.
Stores are paying the musicians, who will also accept tips.
“It’s huge, because there’s no venues, that’s all the way across the country too,” Sperry added.
Betsy Wietor, owner of Southeast Salt Coastal Gifts and Apparel, formerly Tarpon Bay Trading Company, on Venice Avenue, agreed that the Classic Evenings will be a welcome addition.
‘It’s a great thing,” she said. “Business, due to COVID and everything, has been slow and we’re restricted in what we can do.
“People, also, they’re getting tired of not being able to go out,” Wietor added. “We’re hoping we can do more things, within reason, and be smart about it obviously,” she said.
Suzanne Andrews at Mothers Cupboard Spice Shoppe in the Merchants of Venice building off of Miami Avenue said the events Venice MainStreet used to host are key to bringing people to her store.
Every time Venice MainStreet hosts an event, Andrews made sure to hire a musician and considers it an inexpensive commercial for her shop.
“Just that fact that something’s happening is cool,” said Andrews, who’s planning a food drive for the Salvation Army in November. “I’m expecting this to be a really good event.”
Andrews and other downtown merchants already take safety precautions at their stores.
“We do social distancing, I don’t let too many people in the store at one time,” Andrews said.
“I have sanitation stations in here, I bought two air filters for that store, that between the two of them are $1,600,” she added. “I’m doing what I can do to keep this place safe.”
Andrews wears both a mask and a face shield designed for use with an angle grinder, which hangs lower than most face shields sold since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Regular customers have stopped in to replenish their kitchen or shop for gadgets, and Andrews launched a webpage for people to shop for teas and spices online.
“At least I’m holding my own and I’m making what I did last year,” Andrews said then noted that last year the city was still recovering from red tide and reduced traffic from road reconstruction.
Still the store will mark eight years in Venice this November.
George Nubile, president of the local chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America, said members haven’t been able to showcase their cars since the annual fundraising show, which had been set for March 29, was canceled – though they did do a drive by car tour in June, with about 20 cars driving through Aston Gardens, off of Pinebrook Road.
Nubile said at least a dozen cars have committed to the first Classics on the Avenues.
“We’ll be prepared and we’ll abide by the city’s rules and what they’ve got set up,” Nubile said.
“We’re looking forward to doing it, it’s pretty exciting,” he added. “We want to help the merchants down here and do the best we can for them.
“They’re big supporters of our organization and we try to support them.”