LivingSocial says its “918 F Street” initiative has been regularly selling out events since its debut five weeks ago. The young offline effort has been met with curiosity among digital marketers as well as criticism in the brand’s Washington, D.C. locale. But Maire Griffin, LivingSocial spokesperson, said that small businesses such as activities instructors and newly opening restaurants are packing the schedule.
“We’re going seven days a week now,” she told ClickZ on Wednesday. “We’ve really homed in on the activities people are looking for. Our two-and-a-half years of daily deals have informed us about what people are interested in.”
The 918 F Street effort encompasses a six-floor building in the city’s Penn Quarter neighborhood. It includes a culinary kitchen, a separate demo kitchen that’s meant to comfortably fit 36 people, and flexible spaces that can be adapted for dancing and dining. LivingSocial has partnered with hospitality and restaurant consulting firm Vucurevich Simons Advisory Group to manage food and beverage programs at 918 F Street. Classes for photography, painting, cooking, yoga, bartending, etc. are being offered.
Griffin said the space would be filled with events on Wednesday, including a pop-up restaurant serving crab entrees at a prix fixe rate of $119. That effort mirrors a three-day run by Mike Isabella, best known as a participant on the Bravo TV show “Top Chef,” who gave a preview of his new Mexican restaurant in February.
Isabella, according to Griffin, was thrilled to be able to provide his eatery with a dress rehearsal before his actual doors opened. The LivingSocial rep said it gave him a testing ground for menu items, as well as allowing wait staffers to learn their routines.
“He said it was priceless,” she said. Griffin added that the Isabella events “sold out in eight hours.”
But not everyone is crazy about 918 F Street.
According to a recent Washington Post article, some D.C.-based arts and entertainment businesses claim that the platform is trying to wipe them out. LivingSocial refutes the charge.
“It’s a free market, but LivingSocial is using Wal-Mart principles against the creative community,” Michael Clements, founder of ArtJamz, a District-based company that hosts painting parties, told the Post. “There has got to be another way for them to use their millions than to compete with creative businesses.”