The inaugural year of One Spark featured a Creator called “The Elbow,” helmed by a marketing team intent on designating and branding an entertainment district Downtown. The idea may be foreign to Jacksonville, but it’s not a unique concept. The French Quarter in New Orleans, the Gaslamp District in San Diego, and the closer-to-home Ybor City in Tampa have all branded themselves as a downtown destination for happy hours and late nights out. However, our own Jacksonville’s urban center only had what may have been vaguely described as “around Bay Street.”
The Elbow saw moderate success at One Spark in 2013, and subsequently launched a website and social media campaign, but over time, the idea failed to gain traction. There was no support from the city, the venues were still developing, and many patrons were confused by or oblivious to the Elbow’s efforts. “We weren’t even sure it would catch on,” says Grant Nielsen, the Elbow’s Media Manager. “It became clear that we would need some kind of funding channel in order to keep operating.”
This past spring, Downtown Vision, Inc. stepped up. The revitalization corporation is the powerhouse responsible for First Wednesday Art Walk and the orange-clad Downtown Ambassadors, and they saw an opportunity in Nielsen’s vision.
“An entertainment and nightlife district has grown up, and it’s been built exclusively by local entrepreneurs,” says Katherine Hardwick, DVI’s Director of Marketing. “We wanted to double down on their efforts and join forces to bring more people Downtown.”
“We were inspired by the bold moves that the restaurant and venue owners were making.” Nielsen adds. “At the time, it seemed fairly risky to open these businesses in a formerly dead part of town.” It’s been a risk that has paid off for everyone. Both organizations see the union as a success that will benefit the businesses, their patrons, and downtown as a whole. “People gravitate to destinations full of options and with a sense of place,” Hardwick says.
With DVI at its back, the Elbow has blossomed into a hub for everything from cocktails to rock concerts, from burlesque shows to hand-rolled cigars. They currently boast over thirty bars, restaurants and venues in operation, and five more are scheduled to open soon. And they’ve demonstrated a chronic inability to sit still, with an ever-revolving schedule of events:
- Every Thursday. Features a serious happy hour with bonus specials for Downtown employees.
Art Walk After Dark in The Elbow
- Every first Wednesday. Just launched: Art Walk is over, but the party has just begun.
The Elbow Tailgate
- Sunday, September 20. A partnership with the Jaguars that will offer a game-day package with free parking, transportation, a ticket and the chance to pre-game at the Elbow locations.
Visit www.TheElbowJax.com for a wealth of information about the district, including featured events, an interactive guide, news, music, videos, and more.
1904 Music Hall
Club TSI Discotheque
Levels (Opening soon)
The Hourglass Pub
Downtown Cigar Lounge
Azucena Corner Deli
Bay Street Bar & Grille
Casa Dora Italian Restaurant
Cowford Chophouse (Opening soon)
Super Food and Brew
The Bay Street Cafe