Friday is Back: Brownsville Downtown Storefront Returns

August 4 – First Friday, a grassroots project that spotlighted downtown businesses, featuring local artists, musicians and vendors, and did a good job of drawing crowds downtown, has been canceled by the pandemic.

Now it’s back. The second revived First Friday is scheduled for August 5. If last month’s is any indication, the turnout will be impressive.

Michael Limas, co-owner of Las Ramblas in the Market Square and Las Ramblas Hospitality Group, recalls the original series of First Fridays before the pandemic, including the premiere, which took place in 2019 shortly after the opening of his cocktail bar.

“It was slow, then it started picking up and it was great,” he said. “So much activity, people walking around. You could tell they were reliving their own community in such a positive light. … We had major success. As business owners, we couldn’t wait for the first Friday.”

Gonzalo Gomez and Luis Foncerrada served as the driving force behind the original event and basically drew the map for the latest iteration. Today, a large group of downtown business owners banded together to bring back First Friday, though Limas gives special credit to Danny Alvarez and Rodrigo Quintero, owners of Kraken Lounge and Double Trouble Sports & Cocktails, respectively. , both located on East Adams Street.

Talks about the First Friday revival began last year, though it was unclear at first who would take the lead in “reigniting the fuse,” Limas said.

“It’s a big contingent, although Danny and Rod are really pushing it,” he said. “They’re putting their all into it, so congratulations.”

Quintero gave others credit for doing the heavy lifting, adding that “every downtown business owner has been trying to get things done for a while.”

“We finally succeeded,” he said. “Most of us meet once a month and we gather our thoughts.”

Current First Fridays follow the original recipe, with temporary art installations and live music in bars and restaurants; vendors, musicians and artists set up in the market square, as well as games and other attractions for the youngest members of the family. The idea is to give people something to do downtown that doesn’t necessarily cost money, although spending money is certainly allowed.

Quintero noted that today there are even more restaurants, bars and shops open downtown than before the pandemic, and said the event is attracting interest from artists, musicians and vendors from all over the Rio Grande Valley, not just Brownsville. The market square was packed for the first Friday of July 1, which organizers staged in just two weeks, he said, describing it as a “really good evening”.

The City of Brownsville was helpful and supportive in terms of marketing the event, with Downtown Manager Allen Garces acting as a liaison between downtown business owners as a city, Quintero said, adding that he anticipates big things from the first Friday and expects it will only get bigger and better.

Limas said there is a lot going on most days of the week downtown, although the first Friday serves as a real showcase.

“The intention is really to give people a reason to come to downtown who haven’t, so they can really experience the special things that are happening,” he said. “For us, that’s great. That’s exactly what we want, that’s exposure.

“The other benefit is you have people coming from Harlingen. You have people coming from Hidalgo County. From a tax standpoint, that’s exactly what we want for the city. That helps generate sales tax revenue, gives us visibility, and it helps local businesses, which are mostly what’s here, increase their bottom line that day. We love it. We’re certainly grateful.

More information is available on the BTX Downtown First Friday Facebook page.

David H. Henry