The Star-Spangled Spectacular has come and gone, and the jury is out on whether it lived up to the 2012 Sailabration for Baltimore businesses.
“I was going on the assumption that it was going to be similar to (Sailabration)” said Billy Hughes, owner of Barracuda’s in Locust Point. “Three days out of the four were a total bust compared to what I was expecting.”
He had taken a gamble on more customers, planning an outdoor event with a pit barbeque and music, and that cost some extra money.
During the 2012 event, said Hughes, tourists were roaming the streets looking for parking near Fort McHenry, bringing them to the storefronts. This year, he said, parking was more tightly controlled, taking away that opportunity.
Tighter security during the president’s visit to Fort McHenry on Friday and rain on Saturday also put a damper on the weekend, he said. But the Spectacular weekend was still much busier than a typical one, he added, and he’s still proud of the event as a Baltimore native.
The Spectacular “brought literally thousands of people to our community,” said Greg Sileo, president of the Locust Point Civic Association. “While that created some challenges here and there, I think the majority of people were excited to showcase our community.”
But for businesses closer to the Inner Harbor, it seemed that the Spectacular weekend brought more of what was expected.
“Going in our business plan we tried to follow the same trends as last time,” said Ed Prutzer, general manager at the Rusty Scupper.
The weekdays were a little bit slower than they were during the Sailabration, said Prutzer, probably because that event took place in June, when children were out of school. But the weekend days were similar to those during the 2012 event, he said, almost down to the dollar.
“We were lucky because they put some of the ships at the Inner Harbor Marina … so people came right past our front door,” said Prutzer.
The Star-Spangled 200 Inc., the nonprofit behind the War of 1812 commemorations, is working on an economic impact report with Forward Analytics that is expected to come out in November.
The Rusty Scupper had about double the normal number of reservations, said Prutzer.
Little Havana in Federal Hill did about 20 percent more business than on a usual weekend, said co-owner Marc Gentile.
“We’re not on the beaten path for tourists,” said Gentile. But the restaurant’s deck did allow visitors to watch the Blue Angels flyover and the fireworks.
The activity may have helped to fill a gap that typically occurs during the beginning of September, said Gentile, by bringing in tourists to make up for local families with children in school.
“The back-to-school weeks are a natural swoon in business,” he said. “This kind of extended the summer for us.”
Businesses also likely got a boost from baseball traffic, said Prutzer, thanks to the Orioles’ series against the Yankees. He hopes that momentum will continue as the Birds head into post-season play.