Downtown businesses cash in on weekend events

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Bibimpap (Source: WAFB)
Bibimpap (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge is looking to cash in on several big events drawing crowds to the Capital City this weekend. Local business owners said it is one of the reasons they planted roots downtown.

The tables were set as restaurant workers at Cocha on Main St. and Sixth St. prepared for their usual Friday crowd.

Owners Enrique Pinuera and his wife Saskia Spanhoff recently moved here from Los Angeles and decided to give the restaurant business a shot.

"We started looking at downtown, went to Third Street first, and this place popped up and we just fell in love with it," Pinuera said.

The couple admits it was not a decision they took lightly.

"When I first came here about four years ago I was like, it's not quite there yet but we kept coming and sure enough we are really excited to be here in downtown," Pinuera said.

But for them timing was everything. Spanhoff grew up here and said, after seeing the recent growth in downtown Baton Rouge, she was sold.

"My dad had an office back here many years ago, and it really stayed as a community that people come to work and then jet out of town. So once we started to see that development happen we really knew it was the right time," Spanhoff said.

Cocha is a term of endearment, Spanhoff said, favored by none other than her husband.

"We were sitting one day on the porch having some wine and Enrique turns to me and says, hey cocha, can you get me another glass of wine. Cocha has always been a nickname Enrique had for me and right then I knew that was the name (for the restaurant)," Spanhoff said.

The restaurant offers what the couple refers to as a "global menu" featuring international cuisine, organic produce, vegan, and a gluten-free fare. The cocktails are off the charts, the couple added.

President of Visit Baton Rouge Paul Arrigo said downtown is primed for up and coming business.

"You've got so many residents here, so much happening, a critical mass. It's exciting," Arrigo said.

Festival season is set to kick off with the Live After Five concert series, Blues Fest, and the Monster Truck Jam is in town. Arrigo said downtown hotels are typically 65 percent full. This weekend he said they are at 80 percent.

"Right now the entire city is doing very well. We're among the leaders in the state in occupancy right now," Arrigo said.

The visitors mean big bucks for business and the economy. It appears entrepreneurs are catching on.

Back at Cocha, some of the newest to arrive to the downtown scene are rolling out a warm welcome.

"We are always ready for people to come into our home," Pinuera said.

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