- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2001

A bit of life was injected into the nation's capital last weekend as the city sponsored promotions designed to get businesses back on their feet. Free metro rides and discounts at restaurants and stores appeared to have had a positive effect throughout the city.

Visitors and foot traffic in the District have tumbled since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, costing the city more than $20 million. But the efforts of District officials to lure people back last weekend were, for the most part, successful for those businesses that participated.

"Our objectives were met. We feel really good about the weekend," said Bill Hanbury, president of the Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Corp. "Symbolically, it signaled to residents that DC was open for business."

Mr. Hanbury's organization spent about $200,000 on the publicity campaign.

About 400 restaurants and other businesses participated in the campaign, and most offered promotions ranging from free appetizers to as much as 25 percent discounts.

"Both Saturday and Sunday night were very busy," said Jill Collins, a spokeswoman for McCormick and Schmick's restaurant at 1652 K St. Ms. Collins said the restaurant grossed more than $7,000 during Saturday and Sunday, an increase over the previous four weekends. And at the M & S Grill, a sister restaurant at 13th and F streets, business was up 30 percent over the previous two weekends.

"This past weekend brought us back and then some," Ms. Collins said.

Metro ridership shot up during the weekend, as area residents took advantage of the free-ride promotion, which cost Metrorail $600,000. For the weekend, overall ridership bounced back 39.2 percent since the Sept. 11 attacks, and 3.5 percent over the same weekend last year.

But it remains unclear whether increased Metro traffic meant increased business. The ESPNZone in the District, located one block from Metro Center, saw virtually no increase in visitors, according to marketing manager Lara Papi. Business is down about 20 percent from pre-attack levels; Ms. Papi said ESPNZone missed the deadline to participate in the "Be a Tourist in Your Hometown" promotions.

The Tuscana West Restaurant at 1350 I St. participated in the promotions but barely saw a response. Manager Mo Saffaian said just four persons took advantage of the 15 percent discount he was offering.

"The city was busy," a tired-sounding Mr. Safaian said. "I was hoping to get more out of it."

The Smithsonian saw its second-busiest weekend since Sept. 11, with 118,000 visitors. Columbus Day weekend saw more visitors, but over three days.

"We did very well," Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said.

District officials conceded that some visitors may have been deterred by warnings from the federal government that more terrorist attacks were possible in the coming days.

"It probably would have been" more successful without that proclamation, Mr. Hanbury said. "Certainly, the ongoing state here of what's going on in America is making people uneasy."

Mr. Hanbury said the Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Board has had some success in curbing the obvious appearance of police and military presence, particularly near the White House and other federal buildings.

Such efforts appear to have helped business at the Old Ebbitt Grill, located on 15th Street, just a block from the White House.

Assistant general manager Kyle Gaffney said that the restaurant's business is about on par with last year's sales.

It was boosted further by specials on lobster dinners last weekend.

The restaurant sold 600 lobsters, more than double the norm.

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