Downtown Alive with Music, Business Booming

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PANAMA CITY - Panama City business owners and the Downtown Improvement Board are working out the responsibilities of a relatively new program. Music matters puts local musicians in Downtown restaurants every Wednesday night.

The Wednesday night Music Matters entertainment program began last month. Local musicians began volunteering their time and talents at downtown restaurants, in exchange for tips.

Music Matters sprang from an effort by musicians Crook and Vicki Stewart, a Springfield couple that have a visions of downtown becoming a small version of Nashville's Broadway Street.

Local business owners say having live entertainment in their restaurants has had an immediate impact.

"You start to see people walking up and down the streets and it looks very lively. Business seems to have increased from it." said Mike Ferrucci, Ferrucci Ristorante Co-Owner.

"Sometimes it even doubles or triples our business," said Sadie Parmer, Millies Co-Owner.

Downtown Improvement Board members decided it's time to pay the piper, sotospeak. They've recommending the business owners start paying the musicians $25 an hour.

That mans the artists will earn about $75 each Wednesday, plus tips. The restaurant owners don't seem to mind.

Parmer said, "Artists do deserve to be paid for the work that they do." "We've been trying for years and years to rejuvenate and renew downtown and finally it looks like one idea that's working," said Ferrucci.

Ferrucci says some businesses have even changed their hours because of music matters.

Six downtown restaurants are participating in music matters Wednesdays. Several business owners want to expand the live music to Thursday nights as well.