The owner of the bouchon Santa Barbara restaurant was worried about the state of West Victoria Street when he moved in 16 years ago, with the Vons supermarket in disrepair and some less than desirable neighbors.
But Mitchell Sjerven was all smiles Wednesday evening during a West Victoria Street Block Party, which drew a sold-out crowd of about 350 locals to the first of its kind event sponsored by a host of local organizations.
The New Victoria Theater, the recently opened Santa Barbara Public Market and other businesses have redefined the block between State and Chapala streets, and Sjerven couldn’t have been more grateful to see the promising transformation.
“We’re thrilled to see the turnaround of this little block,” Sjerven told Noozhawk. “This should be one of the liveliest blocks in the city.”
Victoria Street stayed open for the event, but merchants happily welcomed everyone inside from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
Guests, who bought tickets to attend, started the celebration at the New Vic, enjoying local beer, wine and fare from Olio e Limone, Scarlett Begonia, SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, the Granada’s Marquee events, Arlington Tavern and bouchon — the last two of which showed off new outdoor patio dining areas.
“We wanted to say hello and welcome,” said Kate Schwab, marketing and communications director for Santa Barbara Downtown Organization, one of the organizers.
“It’s such a great block between Chapala and State,” Schwab said. “We’d love to have more (block parties).”
After brief remarks from Mayor Helene Schneider and others, guests headed over to tour the Santa Barbara Public Market in six groups according to the color of wristband they received when they walked in the door.
The market at 38 W. Victoria St. is part of the mixed-use Alma del Pueblo development.
Block party attendees strolled past 15 vendors inside the mini-supermarket, which emphasizes handmade, eco-minded food, beer and wine.
Developer Marge Cafarelli was on hand Wednesday, explaining the positive response the market has received from the community since opening to the public April 14.
The 37 second- and third-floor residential units should be ready for residents in May, according to developers, who haven’t said how many have been sold or to whom.