Richmond-area restaurant managers were hoping the UCI Road World Championships would bring a cornucopia of sales. But things got off to a disappointing start.
Local patrons seemed to stay away on opening weekend while spectators from out of the area are keeping things afloat.
“Some Richmonders got turned off by all the hype and went away,” says Bernadette Young, general manager at the downtown outlet of Capital Ale House.
At Rappahannock on Grace Street, a block from the epicenter of Broad Street’s race activity, foreign diners are providing a good business with locals staying away, resulting in no revenue bump. Business “is about the same but it’s a different clientele,” manager Laura Unterberg says.
Steps away, at Pasture, chef and co-owner Jason Alley says that while business is about the same, there’s a distinctly more foreign clientele.
For some, the race has pedaled business backward. Josh Bufford, a partner at Shoryuken Ramen on West Franklin Street near Monroe Park, says sales “have been the slowest it has been in weeks. This could easily become a net negative for us.”
Many expect revenues to pick up this week toward the race’s end Sept. 27. But if trends continue, rosy predictions of the race’s economic impact might be off mark.
Chmura Economics & Analytics, which prepared an economic study of the race in 2013, predicted that the race would boost local tax revenues for meals and lodging by $3.8 million. Some 450,000 spectators were expected, although the figure includes Richmonders who might watch the races on several days. Each set of eyes per day counts as a spectator.
The consulting company’s chief executive, Christine Chmura, wrote in a June 10, 2013, newspaper column that besides foreign visitors, the race could draw from 115 million people within a 500-mile radius. “Such a large number of visitors clearly will be a boon for local businesses,” she wrote. “The hundreds of thousands of visitors will book hotel rooms, eat in restaurants, shop in stores, buy souvenirs and spend money elsewhere in the region -- to the tune of $72 million in 2015.” She expected regional spending to total $129.2 million.
A big reason for the overall flat sales is that usual customers in the area are staying away because of street closures, limited parking and the fear of large crowds, unwilling to take on the challenge of navigating logistics.
Another issue is that some of the international teams are staying in less-expensive suburban hotels. The 32-member team from Russia is booked in Chester, about 15 miles south of downtown, says team manager Nickolai Krutilin, who finds Richmond to be a “clean, shining city.”
One spot that appeared to be drawing plenty of customers was T. Millers Sports Bar & Grill at the Richmond Marriott, conveniently located with patio service just steps from the busy race finish line.
Restaurant managers hold out hope for an uptick. Owners and bartenders were using social media to implore their regulars to return, saying it was easier than they might think to navigate to their usual hangouts.
Capital Ale House’s Unterberg says, “When Richmond gets used to street closures, they’ll be able to get to us.” CORRECTION: Rappahannock and Shroyuken Ramen's names were originally misspelled. We regret the error.