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Special event helps uncork Uptown 23rd District growth
In 2013, the Uptown 23rd District Association wanted people to see the few restaurants that were in the area, so Uptown Uncorked was born.
“We had a handful of restaurants,” said Matt Ralls, who serves on the association’s board of directors. “We even toyed with the idea of having a $23 ticket just so we could get people there.”
Ralls said he thinks the first Uptown Uncorked served more as a marketing event rather than a food-tasting. He said it showed people there was something happening on NW 23rd Street, and they could get involved with a growing district at the beginning.
This year, the event on March 29 will feature 12 eateries and is being held in the district at the Tower Theatre. Restaurants providing food include HunnyBunny Biscuit Co., Cuppies and Joe, Chick N Beer, Guyutes, and Cheevers.
The past few years, it was held at the Oklahoma History Center. The first Uncorked was at the Gold Dome.
Restaurant developer Chris Lower said it’s been the association’s dream to have the event at the theater, even before it was redeveloped.
Lower’s been involved in the district for several years. Eight years ago, he opened Big Truck Tacos with chefs Kathryn Mathis and Cally Johnson. Mathis and Lower have since opened Pizzeria Gusto and Back Door Barbecue.
“It was hard to envision eight years ago that this area would become as popular as it has,” he said.
“We’re certainly glad to be one of the pioneers down here,” he said. “To say I pictured it would look like this: I really didn’t. It’s a nice surprise.”
With more restaurants participating, the ticket price has increased about $10 through the years. Association Director Amanda de la Torre said the association has focused this year on increasing the VIP-ticket value.
VIPs can get into the event an hour early and will get to party in the theater’s balcony. The old balcony can only hold 200 people, so VIP tickets are limited. This year, the tickets will come with high-end liquor pours, a tasting of the Okie Poke restaurant, which isn’t opened yet, gift bags, and wine and beer. Some of the wine and beer may be new to market. The alcohol is provided by Uptown 23rd business Byron’s Liquor Warehouse.
Money raised from the event goes to support the association’s work in the district. The fundraiser backs about 40 percent of the association’s total budget.
De la Torre said sponsors have backed all the event costs, so the ticket sales will go directly to improving Uptown 23rd, which spans from Broadway Avenue to Oklahoma City University.
The association would like to add way-finding signs to the area and more public art, she said. The buffalo mural and the bike racks were paid for by money raised from other Uncorked events.
Uptown 23rd is in the city’s Commercial District Revitalization Program.
General admission tickets are $50, though there is a 23 percent discount until Thursday. VIP tickets are $75.
Lower said he and Mathis are glad to see the restaurant growth and that he expects the event will help generate even more traffic.
“If they don’t know how vibrant [Uptown] is, they’ll get a sample of what’s available at Uncorked, and hopefully it will bring them back,” he said.