Saving the Best for "Last Fridays"

One block away from the Santa Monica beach, festivities are in the making. The last Friday of every month has Main Street businesses extending their hours to lure crowds into their shops.

Last Fridays officially start at 5 p.m. and continue until late evening. Main Street appeals to those looking for an early drink, a nice dinner, shopping or live music on a Friday night.

Many bars and restaurants are located along the street, including the popular O'Briens Irish Pub and Restaurant at the corner of Main and Marine. O'Brien's has live music nightly, a happy hour that spans from 1-7 p.m., and $4 pints of O'Brien's Amber Ale and Bud Light during Last Fridays.

Retail stores like skate and surf shop ZJ Boarding house, LF women's trends and Agabhumi, which boasts "The Best of Bali," are all located on Main Street. Some offer discounts of up to 60 percent on the last Friday of the month.

Last Fridays came to life in an attempt to improve business on Main Street. Laura Owen, owner of the store Gioia and board member of Main Street Business Improvement Association, said that most businesses will stay open later to support the effort.

The idea for Last Fridays arose from the monthly event First Fridays, held on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Owen said. The concept is the same. Businesses stay open late, offering discounts, live entertainment and refreshments.

"There was a mixed response among businesses the first month," said Owen. Though the foot traffic might look a bit slow at the moment, Owen is positive about the future. "I'm sure that spring will bring more people out along with the weather," she said.

Many locals don't know about the event. Helena Kallimikidor, Santa Monica resident and engineer, was unaware about the monthly event. "I live around the corner. It doesn't seem very lively," she said. "It seems like many people don't know about it."

Apart from shopping, bars, and restaurants, Paint:Lab on Main Street offers a different experience. Paint:Lab has materials available so that patrons can paint and it offers art classes with accompanying wine and cheese. The store is open until 10 p.m. and charges $25 for limitless hours of painting and the purchase of your canvas.

Studio attendant Ursula Berg said that the newly opened Paint:Lab will continue adding more activities. "Since this is relatively new we don't have all that much happening, but it's very likely that we will add more events later on" she said.

Main Street brings many chances to listen to some quality live music. Right next to the store Monkie, a dress boutique that offers 20 percent off merchandise on Last Fridays, is a small courtyard that is blaring loud music.

Inside the courtyard is a big tree decorated with white lights. In front of the tree plays the band BUB (short for the Brandon Ummel Band).

BUB consists of five men. They are playing in front of a low-key crowd standing in the cozy courtyard. The slow rock changes to something more upbeat as the band covers Michael Jackson's Billie Jean and the small crowd sends some screams up into the night sky.

Main Street has something to offer for people of all ages on Last Fridays. "It raises the spirit of the community," said Elaine Levi, member of the Santa Monica artists' co-op "Ten Women." Levi thinks Main Street's Last Fridays are a great place for college students to come for a good time.

"I know they're looking to do something different," said Levi.