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Downtown Bloomington shops extend Thursday hours

Downtown Bloomington shops extend Thursday hours

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BLOOMINGTON - Addressing criticism that downtown Bloomington stores close before most shoppers get off work, a bloc of retailers will launch Alive After 5 next Thursday.

Twelve downtown retailers will remain open until 7 p.m. Thursdays, rather than closing around 5 p.m. They hope to piggyback on upcoming shows at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum, such as the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus.

"I wish we were doing this for the John Mellencamp concert. People were out walking all around. I was really surprised. I debated going back and opening the store," said Cindy Beier, who co-owns the wine and gift shop A. Renee with her daughter Amy Calhoun.

About 6,800 people attended the Mellencamp concert at the Coliseum on April 13, according to numbers from the Coliseum. Many people walked around, ate dinner and even peeked into the windows of downtown retailers before the 8 p.m. concert, Beier said.

"I just started people-watching. They weren't just parking their cars and going to the Coliseum. They were curious about what was downtown," Beier added.

Participating retailers in the new program will remain open until 7 p.m. each Thursday for at least one year, said Catherine Dunlap, executive director of the Downtown Bloomington Association. She hopes businesses will continue the practice after the one-year trial period.

"If you're only open from 9 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.), you're only catering to those who are unemployed," Dunlap said. "With the commute across town, east-siders don't have time to get downtown to shop after work."

Participating retailers are A. Renee, A. Gridley Antiques, About Books, The Bead Parlor, Blue Thistle, Coffee Hound, Flying Monkeys, Fox & Hounds Hair Studio and Day Spa, Kelly's Bakery & Cafe, Timothy Kent Framing & Gallery, 2 Pals Pottery and Specs Around Town.

The Coliseum Web site, www.uscellularcoliseum.com , does not list any other Thursday events after the circus next Thursday.

Based on conversations with Coliseum management, Dunlap expects several other Thursday events to be announced in the future.

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