Nuit Blanche’s response: take the money and invest it in your own businesses, an approach Ms. Hillis was glad to hear.
Ottawa’s challenge will be to make the festival as sustainable here as it has been in larger cities such as Montreal and Toronto, and part of that will mean helping the merchants as much as possible, she said.
“Do we have a critical mass in Ottawa, and do people want to stay up all night walking the streets? It’s an experiment,” she said.
Nuit Blanche is a one-night festival where businesses open their doors, generally for free or low-cost, and allow people from the street to visit. It’s an extravaganza of art installations, free music and other arts and cultural activities.
The first Nuit Blanche ran in Paris in 2002, and expanded to Montreal in 2003 and Toronto in 2006. The Canadian cities have reported great success with the concept.
From looking at the other cities’ experiences, Ms. Hillis says she believes Wellington West (one of a few neighbourhoods hosting Nuit Blanche in Ottawa this year) is perfectly positioned to do so because it is a street built for casual shopping and browsing.
She classifies the event as a boon for new businesses, such as Beyond the Pale. The microbrewery is expected to open this weekend. Already, owner Rob McIsaac has spent time in front of the store handing out vouchers to passers-by to draw them in, according to Ms. Hillis.
“You hope people who are tromping through (the neighbourhood), will check out everything, and in that particular case, the microbrewery is the perfect pit stop for a little drink,” Ms. Hillis said.
Success is just a matter of advertising the neighbourhoods’ shops effectively enough to bring in patrons long after the night completes, she added, saying it will come down to principles such as good service.
As for the sponsorship money, she said the BIA’s contributions are fairly modest, but did not have the dollar amount available.
The BIA’s most prominent financial contribution went towards an interactive display of tweets on the Great Canadian Theatre Company building, which is at the corner of Holland Avenue and Wellington Street West.