- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Some local hoteliers and restaurateurs had an upswing in business during the inaugural Cadillac Grand Prix this weekend, while others didn't see much of an effect on their bottom lines.
"It was disappointing," said Marilyn Matthews, co-owner of Washington D.C. Accommodations, a District-based hotel-reservation service. An event like this "really needs to trickle down and boost the local economy and tourism."
However, there were still plenty of fans who attended the first major auto-racing event in the D.C. metropolitan area in more than 80 years. At least 70,000 people came to RFK Stadium during the three-day event.
"Any event of this nature is beneficial to the hospitality industry," said William Hanbury, president and chief executive of the Washington D.C. Convention and Tourism Corp.
In addition to instant benefits from those who visited the city during the weekend, the Grand Prix will also have long-term benefits, thanks to the national television coverage it received, Mr. Hanbury said.
City officials estimated the event scheduled to take place annually for the next nine years will bring the city $350 million over that period.
"It was a good, positive event for the city, and we want it to continue its nine-year run," Mr. Hanbury said.
Joe Englert, owner of the Capitol Lounge on Pennsylvania Avenue in Southeast, didn't see any economic boom this weekend.
"This was probably my worst Saturday in five or six years," said Mr. Englert, who wasn't surprised that the event didn't boost his bottom line. He doesn't rely on once-a-year events to increase sales. He attributed the slow weekend to the hot weather.
However, some operations welcomed the Grand Prix.
Business was "very good" beginning at lunch on Friday and lasting through the weekend at the Capitol City Brewing Co. on Massachusetts Avenue in Northeast, said manager Bill Leary.
"We were happy the Grand Prix was in town," he said.
Business at the Holiday Inn Capitol was "better than usual" for a weekend in July, said Dean Wilhelm, general manager of the 529-room hotel on C Street in Southwest. At least 80 to 90 rooms were occupied with race fans or team members, he said.
Metro ridership was up about 18 percent this past weekend, compared with the July 13th weekend. About 535,000 people rode the Metro on Saturday and Sunday. Even ridership on Friday, when there were fewer events, was higher than it had been on previous Fridays this summer.
But for residents angered by the noisy weekend of racing and for local businesses that didn't see much in terms of returns, the event may not be welcomed next year with open arms.
"There doesn't seem to be much to look forward to for next year," Ms. Matthews said.


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