Dozens of people drank, dined and danced to live music in the middle of Lewis Street in downtown Greenwich Saturday night.
Were they at risk of being struck by a passing motor vehicle?
Nope. The Greenwich Police had that under control as they had barricaded off either end of the normally busy thoroughfare for the inaugural annual Bastille Day celebration at Restaurant Jean-Louis.
Organized by restaurant owner and celebrity chef Jean-Louis Gerin and the Alliance Francaise of Greenwich, the "Bal Populaire" featured an outdoor barbecue, live music, on-the-street dining, champagne, Bastille Day cake from nearby Black Forest Bakery and performances by dancers from nearby Arthur Murray Dance Studio.
"We wanted to create an event that would be off the charts," an excited Jean-Louis Gerin said during a brief interview in his busy kitchen. "Renee Ketcham, president of Alliance Francaise, said 'let's do it on Bastille Day…but let's do it a bit crazy.'"
"The intention was to make it very big and very popular," Gerin said, adding that the event isn't just for Francophiles and Francophones. "'Bal Populaire' in French means it is open to everyone — it is not exclusive."
Gerin, who recently won on the Food Network TV show "Chopped," said he was thrilled with the turnout for the event, which lasted from 7 to 11 p.m.
"This party is pretty wild — I don't know if you can feel the energy," he said excitedly. "People are definitely having a good time and so far it is a great success."
Gerin credited Alliance Francaise with handling all the promotion for the event. The group also organizes a French film series which is now in its seventh year.
"We know that Greenwich has a fairly wide Francophile base — we know that because we do a [French] flag raising ceremony every Fourteenth of July [Bastille Day], that is very popular," Gerin said. "So we always knew we had the potential [to get a crowd]. The reason this turned out so big is because word got out that the music was going to be great, there was going to be a barbecue outside, and there was going to be dining and dancing in the street…"
Gerin said the event also gives the restaurant the opportunity to bring more to the community than just fantastic food.
"Restaurant Jean Louis is serious place to eat, it's all about the food, yes — but at the end of the day we are really fun people, so tonight is all about the parties," he said with a smile.
Gerin thanked the Greenwich Police Department and Greenwich Fire Department for helping to make the event happen.