They were getting fired up at Vinny's on Block Five early Friday evening. But workers were expecting more heat later on from all these folks packing the Metrocentre nearby. "It's huge for us because it allows people to come down here and see us that normally wouldn't be coming downtown on a regular basis," says Manager G.T. Slocum.
Friday night's concert, featuring Brad Paisley, comes on the heels of a performance from from rock star John Melancamp. Slocum says business that night was more than a little strong. "Every table was packed. The bar was packed. There was not an empty seat in the house," Slocum said. It was the same experience over at Brio, another downtown restaurant. "Within about 20 minutes, every seat in the entire restaurant was full," said Paul Sletter, Brio's owner. And coming in February to the Metrocentre is Reba McEntire and American Idol star Kelly Clarkson. Kim Wheeler, with the Rockford River District Association, says this not only means increased business...but also a buzz that could draw newcomers to 'live it up' downtown. "They're going to see the activity down there and they're going to want to be a part of that," Wheeler said. She says, this year alone, Rockford's River District area, which includes downtown, has seen 15 new businsses and about a half dozen expansions and renovations. And she says there's more interest from developers. So the momentum is building and these big concerts could fry up alot more. The owner of the Brio told me the big concerts at the Metrocentre also helps create a lively downtown atmosphere. And that's something he says is great to see when it happens.