PEABODY — During a recent live gig, Los Sugar Kings bassist Mik Mersha approached his microphone on the Northshore Mall's Promenade event stage and asked if anyone in the audience was a fan of The Beatles.
The question prompted cheers and claps from a group of three women eating dinner on the patio at Tony C's Sports Bar about 50 feet away.
"That's why we're here," said Beverly resident Lisa Morrisey, one of the women, as she pointed to the live band. "We knew someone was playing. I think it's wonderful."
The Promenade, which opened last year along the eastern edge of the mall facing Route 114, runs along several restaurants and features a rotating lineup of local acts and performance groups Thursday nights and some Fridays at its event space for the summer.
"Malls continue to evolve, and we are in the middle of a transition," said Lauren Dalis, director of marketing for Northshore Mall. "What we're doing here is adding more dining. We're trying to add more entertainment, and this whole Promenade area plays into that. It gives us the space to have this live entertainment."
This year, Creative Collective, a business membership program that supports and advocates for area musicians, artists and other "creatives" and business owners, is in charge of the entertainment.
"Number one, it's creative workforce development, because I'm able to hire 50 people over the course of 10 weeks who are all getting compensated technically by the mall," said John Andrews, Collective's executive director. "It's all part of the environment, and it has allowed me to do more of what we do — problem-solving with creative elements."
Andrews, who previously worked as a chef, launched Social Palates around 2012. A few years later, he took over Creative Salem, which eventually became Creative Collective. He also runs Creative North Shore, an online magazine that captures the artistic life of the region.
The Promenade event stage sits immediately outside Tony C's, but it's within visual range of four restaurants that have outdoor seating.
That means the entertainment lineup is more diverse.
"I'm very cognizant of the fact that Tony C's is right here, and [Not Your Average] Joe's deck is right there," Andrews said, pointing to the two restaurants. "(Entertainment) has to have broad appeal, because you're talking four different patios with four very different menus and four different clientele."
Creative Collective is also planning children's events Wednesday mornings at the Promenade.
"For kids, yesterday, we brought in a local group of faeries based out of Salem," Andrews said last week. "Interactive dancing, hooping, singing, crafts, storytime, just a bunch of, 'how do we activate kids in a positive way?'"
The entertainment builds community in a way that a mall generally can't do on its own.
"We're a fixture on the North Shore and wanted the arts community to know that we're open and welcome to having them here," Dalis said. "There's so much talent on the North Shore from a music standpoint, an art standpoint, and we wanted to bring that to the center."
It's something bands like Los Sugar Kings, which performed classic rock and Latin American staples at the Promenade last week, can appreciate.
"It's always great to play in a little amphitheater outside," said Patiño Vazquez, guitarist for Los Sugar Kings. "From a musician's point of view, you really get to connect with people. It's an all-ages crowd. It's the best."
And that crowd can't help but get involved. Take Chris Hark and Julie Bailey, who showed up early to a reservation at Not Your Average Joe's and spent their time listening to Los Sugar Kings, as an example.
"It's a great night to be outside," Hark said. "It's nice for the area, you know? It could just be a parking lot, but you're experiencing live music — so it changes the atmosphere."