As the city grows in popularity, should Cincinnati hire a nightlife manager?

When more people move into the city, and more businesses open up, the level of night time activity also tends to increase. In fact, about five years ago, many policy makers were striving to create “24/7” communities in their respective cities. Of course, not everyone can be New York, nor should they be. But as this level of nightlife increases in repopulating cities, should local governments be thinking of how to manage it? More from Urbanful:

You’ve seen the story before: A decent neighborhood starts to get noticed for its potential. A few bars come, then a few restaurants, and with them an increasingly steady stream of people. A few years down the road, it turns into a bonafide entertainment destination. It’s a story that’s playing out more and more as a growing number of people are making their way back into the cities to live. But it’s not all roses: up-and-coming neighborhoods have to manage the influx of nighttime activity their presence brings.

Pittsburgh’s renaissance has had its fair share of the issue. Business districts either border or seep into residential areas, presenting a major issue for residents. There have been grumblings for years about the noise violations, litter, parking issues, and other concerns attributed to young folks heading out to have a good time. But the city has taken a proactive approach to tackling the problem by hiring a night-time economy manager tasked with acting as a liaison between residents, local businesses and government entities to ensure all parties are satisfied in the development of the nighttime economy.

From ghost town to night-on-the-town

Nearly one month ago we asked whether Cincinnati is in the midst of a contemporary golden age. With all of the public and private investment taking place throughout the city, the answer seemed to be an easy yes. Now, Cincinnati’s mainstream media is echoing our thoughts. From WCPO:

On virtually any given evening, you can walk around downtown Cincinnati and run into people. In fact, you might find a large crowd either on Fountain Square, at The Banks or up in Over-the-Rhine. Anyone who knows Cincinnati knows this is a relatively new situation for this once ghost town. It used to be that when the work day ended, downtown Cincinnati’s sidewalks rolled up for the night. But now, the city comes alive.

2011 MidPoint Music Festival Arrives

The 10th annual MidPoint Music Festival kicks off today in downtown Cincinnati posting arguably the most ambitious yet refined line-up since it started. Over the course of time MidPoint has changed dramatically. In its humble beginnings, when founder Bill Donabedian got the music started, MPMF was focused on unsigned bands and had more of a conference format. Back then, even the most ardent music fan could be intimidated by the line-up of unknown acts from all over the country. As Mr. Donabedian has turned his focus to commitments with 3CDC, Cincinnati’s CityBeatand more specifically Dan McCabe, the direction of the festival, and the MPMF brand itself, have gone through changes.

The 2011 version of MPMF features 180 bands (down from 220 the last few years) with a laser like focus on bringing quality acts in instead of going for quantity. With national and international acts including Cut Copy, Okkervil River, The Dodos, and even acclaimed soul artist Booker T, MPMF is no longer just about musicians that are unsigned and unknown.

Additionally, the MidPoint brand has been used to promote the indie concert series on Fountain Square the last two summers bringing in both national & established local acts each and every Friday night from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Add in the fact that there was even a MidPoint stage at the Western & Southern Tennis Masters Series , it is clear that the brand has been utilized to capture nearly all things indie rock featured in Cincinnati.

Brand awareness and changes to the format itself have meant more ticket sales for the festival the last few years, with box office receipts up 27% from 2008-2010. It has also been reported this week that sales of the 3-day wristbands are up 75% from last year. It is not too late to pick one up still, but today is the last day and the only place they are available is on the the MidPoint Midway.

One of the most impactful changes for 2011’s MPMF is the renewed focus on historic Over-the-Rhine. During the last few years, MPMF reached as far south as Newport using the region’s premeire mid-sized concert venue, the Southgate House, as a destination. This year, MPMF has included the new performance areas at the School of Creative and Performing Arts located on Central Parkway for some of its larger acts, replacing Southgate.

Additionally, past venues have included performance spaces on 5th and 6th street, including Fountain Square, but this year the furthest south the festival will be is 8th Street with both Arnold’s and The Blue Wisp. Overall, including the venues along Central Parkway, 13 of the 17 venues will be in Over-the-Rhine. In having such a condensed space, MPMF will not feature modes of transportation like it has the last few years, but as we have already reported here at UrbanCincy, it will feature amenities made for bicyclists throughout the weekend.

While OTR has always been a major piece of MPMF, the addition of the MidPoint Midway this year on 12th Street is a new idea MPMF has incorporated OTR in a brand new way. The Midway will feature the closure of 12th Street between Vine and Walnut to include food vendors including Tom + Chee and Vinnie’s Gourmet Pretzels performance spaces via Artworks Box Truck Carnival, and a music stage. This incorporation of a public space in the neighborhood really speaks to the partnership between MidPoint and Over the Rhine.

If you haven’t picked up your tickets yet, the 3-day wristbands are available today only on 12th Street on the MidPoint Midway. There are also 1-day passes, and you are able to pay cover charges at individual establishments as well. Most venues are 21+, though there are a few including the SCPA and the stage on the Midway that are all ages, so make sure to double check if age is a concern. And while the weather looks dicey for the weekend, dodging raindrops is a MPMF tradition, so come out and enjoy live music in historic Over the Rhine all weekend long. Hope to see you in the neighborhood this weekend!

A Tavola opening soon in Gateway Quarter

A Tavola interior, photo by Emily Schneider

The guys behind A Tavola want to make their customers happy. It’s immediately evident in their menu, drinks and wine selection, and in their welcoming Over-the-Rhine space.  They even designed their open kitchen so that they could see their patrons react to the tasty food and drinks being served up starting soon (stay tuned on their Facebook page for more specifics).

A Tavola will be the third restaurant open for business on Vine Street between 12th and 13th in the Gateway Quarter district of Over-the-Rhine.  Cincinnati natives Bill Draznik, Jared Wayne, and Sam Ginocchio will primarily be serving up Neapolitan style pizza cooked in an oven that was custom crafted in Naples, Italy, which happens to be the birthplace of this style of pizza. The brick oven weighs as much as an empty school bus and can cook a pizza in 90 seconds or less depending on the fresh ingredients you order. Only about a dozen of these Stefano Ferrara-crafted ovens can be found throughout the states, and you’ll be happy one of them is right here in Over-the-Rhine.

“A Tavola” (pronounced “Ah Tahv-ahla”) is an Italian phrase that literally means “to the table”, but is used by gracious Italian hosts everywhere as a “welcome, come eat.”  The name is fitting; Bill, Jared, and Sam are seeking to create an inviting atmosphere as comfortable as going over to a friend or family member’s home for delicious food that is created with care.

Their 14” pizzas will be made with hand-mixed dough, San Marzano tomatoes, and several locally sourced ingredients.  Prices will range between $10 for a classic margarita, $11 for veggie options, $12 for meat options, and $14 for a pizza that uses a fig reduction as sauce and prosciutto and balsamic arugula salad as toppings.  While a hungry patron could probably take down one of these pizzas by himself, A Tavola recommends splitting several amongst a table of friends so that you can sample from their selection of pizzas ranging from traditional (margarita) to non-traditional (sweet pea and bacon), and maybe you’ll find a new favorite along the way.

As an example of the care being put into each of the ingredients, Bill, A Tavola’s charcuterie, will cure their slab bacon for a week and then smoke it using applewood.  The advantage of slab bacon is the ability to cut thicker slices so that, when cooked, the bacon has crispness on the outside and tenderness on the inside. The pork for A Tavola’s homemade hot Italian fennel sausage, bacon, and pork shoulder will come from the Dean Family Farm in Georgetown, Ohio, which also supplies Boca in Cincinnati.

front tables - photo by Emily Schneider

Every good pizza is made even better with drinks, and drinks are definitely not an afterthought at A Tavola.  There will be eight beer-friendly drafts and 15 bottle beers available.  Not to be outdone by the communal nature of the pizza, draft beer will also be available by the pitcher!  A slew of craft cocktails will also be featured, including classics as well as modern interpretations creatively designed by Sam, the genius behind the bar.

What is a good Italian restaurant without a fantastic wine selection?  There will be five red and five white wines available, each at $25/bottle or $7/glass.  These 10 ‘table’ wines were carefully selected with the help of level-2 sommelier Eric Faber, and are all set at the same price to make them more accessible to someone who is not exactly a wine connoisseur.

It is this thoughtful combination of personal touches throughout the restaurant, born out of passion for serving great food, that are sure to make both you and your stomach happy, and will keep you coming back to A Tavola for more.

Framester takes event photography to the next level

Chances are, if you have a Facebook account, you’ve seen the pictures floating around your friends’ feeds. High quality photo booth style pictures, perfectly capturing the essence of an event or party. This phenomenon is the brainchild of local entrepreneurs David Dewitt and Adam Kleshinski. It’s called Framester.

The philosophy behind the event photography company is that, given the circumstances, every person wants the chance to show their creative, spontaneous selves… and to take the perfect picture. The self-timed setup – a camera, a backdrop, and a little red button – allows party goers to create their own portraits in a way that traditional event photographers can’t.

DeWitt, a former DAAP student at the University of Cincinnati, set up his camera one night at a friend’s party in 2008, and was taken aback at the response it received. “It took a lot of trust, to leave my lighting and camera equipment up all night, but no one messed with it,” David explained. “My friends loved it, and it turned into something bigger.”

Through various connections around town, DeWitt took his setup to local philanthropic events over the next year, experimenting with props, backdrops and photography techniques. Bars and parties began to hire him as a special addition to their shindigs- tagging and sharing the pictures on Facebook helped gather name recognition for the venues, as well as give everyone kick-ass profile pictures.

DeWitt and Kleshinski connected near the end of 2010, where the Xavier MBA graduate saw a business opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. “I couldn’t believe it was just [DeWitt],” said Kleshinski. “I knew it could be something bigger.” The two worked through a business plan, and launched the Framester brand in the beginning of May.

“The goal now is to expand through the Cincinnati area,” explained Adam. “We want it to expand organically, and with 2.5 million people in the region, there’s a lot of room for growth here. Things are changing and moving in the right direction. Cincinnati is a base of ingenuity and entrepreneurship and good business – it’s a great market.”

The duo feels that Cincinnati is a perfect test market – a microcosm with enough diversity to try out different things as they tweak the business model and prepare to grow.

The difference between Framester’s services and any huckster with a camera is the professional level of quality and attention to detail for each event – no two are alike. The service naturally offers a distinctive brand marketing advantage to event sponsors and venues by levering advances in social media technologies, and former clients have seen immediate results in collecting contact information from their attendees along with targeted brand exposure.

Ultimately, Framester is helping to celebrate and showcase the momentum that is driving Cincinnati forward. Kleshinski and DeWitt both say it’s been incredible watching the amount of energy building in Cincinnati’s urban core.

“For too long there’s been this theory that Cincinnati is boring – there’s nothing fun to do here,” said DeWitt. “We know that’s not true – and we’ve got the pictures to prove it.”

CityBeat Best of Cincinnati Party photo provided by Framester.