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Economy Gets an All-Star Boost

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Economy Gets an All-Star Boost

BY DAVID BRACKEN AND SUE STOCK - Staff Writers

The large crowds that flocked to downtown Raleigh and the RBC Center for All-Star game events meantbusy cash registers for many restaurants and hotels.

Eschelon Hospitality, which operates the Oxford and Sono restaurants on Fayetteville Street and Mura in North Hills, extended its hours on Saturday and Sunday to cater to the crowds.

"It was packed all weekend," said Tara Zechini, Eschelon's marketing director.

The 99-room Wingate Inn & Suites near the RBC Center was booked solid on Friday and Saturday nights with hockey fans.

"This time of year normally is very, very slow," said Pradeep Sharma, the hotel's owner. "These two days the occupancy was high and the rates were high. You get a weekend like this and it impacts your entire month."

The state's Commerce Department estimates the weekend provided a $10 million boost to the local economy. A complete report on the economic impact won't be issued for two to four weeks.

About 31,000 fans visited the NHL Fan Fair at the convention center over three days.

The league's official block of hotel rooms totaled between 6,000 and 8,000 rooms. That doesn't include hotels such as the Wingate that didn't host any of the NHL contingents.

The final number of hotel rooms will likely be in the 7,000 to 10,000 range, said Scott Dupree, the vice president for sports marketing for the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Tim Jannik, owner of the two downtown Raleigh Crema restaurants, said sales Saturday were roughly double that of a typical Saturday. But he had several complaints about how the event was planned.

Jannik said his store in the 100 block of Fayetteville Street was blocked off from the main event, and the laws allowing fans to purchase a beer and carry it around on the street did not extend to that block.

"I can't complain because sales were better than they would have been," he said. "It just makes it hard if you're trying to buy a bunch of beer for the event and you wind up overstocked because we weren't included. It's kind of frustrating."

A McDonald's truck was also handing out hot chocolate right in front of Jannik's second store, near City Plaza further down Fayetteville Street.

Rocky Top Hospitality, which operates Michael Dean's, Hi5, Red Room and the Twisted Fork, did great business all week.

But owner Dean Ogan attributed the strong sales to Triangle Restaurant Week, a promotion in which participating restaurants offered a three-course lunch for $15 and a three-course dinner for $20 to $30.

"The majority of the business we saw was Triangle Restaurant Week," Ogan said. "I've got three places downtown on Glenwood [Avenue], but most of the energy for the event was down towards the convention center and Fayetteville Street. From what I understand those places absolutely killed it."

Outside downtown

Some restaurants, such as the acclaimed Angus Barn, did see an uptick in business despite being miles from downtown.

The restaurant was busy all weekend, especially Saturday night when the wait for a table reached two hours, owner Van Eure said.

She estimated the restaurant saw a 15 percent increase in business for the weekend, including lots of Canadians who stopped in for a meal at the local institution.

"We planned for it to be busy" but then wondered if being away from downtown might hurt, she said. "It was a pleasant surprise."

david.bracken@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4548


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