- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2003

Hurricane Isabel brought a surge of business to companies that were able to stay open in the storm’s wake.

From hotels to home-improvement stores, local residents have shelled out dollars to prepare for, clean up and protect themselves from Isabel’s wrath.

Hotels such as the Four Seasons and Key Bridge Marriott were sold out this weekend, while some restaurants were packed with diners looking to get out of the house.

“The people who were able to get out were begging for a place to go,” said Claude Andersen, corporate operations manager for Clyde’s Restaurant Group. “Our restaurants that were open were very, very busy.”

Most of the company’s 11 restaurants fared well after Isabel despite shutting early Thursday night for the storm’s arrival. By Friday, almost all the locations were open for business.

In particular, Clyde’s of Columbia and the Tomato Palace were busy because half of Columbia was without power. Old Ebbitt Grill on 15th Street in Northwest was jammed at dinner Friday and all day Saturday.

On the downside, Clyde’s had to cancel its Oktoberfest in Reston that was scheduled from Friday to Sunday. As of yesterday afternoon, Clyde’s at Mark Center in Alexandria remained closed because the electricity had not been restored.

Barbara Lang, president and chief executive of the DC Chamber of Commerce, said the storm resulted in lost revenue for many businesses that had been closed since Thursday.

“A lot of us have lost, but there are winners too,” she said.

Among the businesses that did well were hardware stores, tree-removal services, construction companies and hotels.

Home Depot has been busy stocking its shelves with essentials for hurricane cleanup and repair as shoppers continue to snap up everything from batteries, flashlights, lanterns and gas tanks to tarps, wet-dry vacs and sump pumps, said Don Harrison, a spokesman for the home-improvement chain.

A top priority for those without power is generators, Mr. Harrison said, but “supply has just about dried up.”

As with any storm, grocery stores were packed leading up to Isabel. Business remains strong in the aftermath as shoppers restock their perishable items.

“The stores are busy because people are getting their electricity back and starting to shop again,” said Barry Scher, a spokesman for Giant Food in Landover.

Like its shoppers, the Giant stores that lost power had to replenish their own supplies. The generators that were used powered only the fronts of the stores.

“We lost a lot of products,” Mr. Scher said. “But we’re in good shape now.”

Some hotels in and around the District had to deal with cancellations, while others sheltered business groups riding out the storm. The hotels also greeted local residents looking for refuge.

The Four Seasons, which was sold out over the weekend, had 100 reservations from locals taking advantage of its “Shelter From the Storm” package. Room rates were cut in half to $195 per night.

“Four Seasons became a port in the storm,” said Tricia Messerschmitt, a spokeswoman for the upscale 260-room property on Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest. “We had an extremely busy weekend.”

Occupancy at Marriott hotels in and around the District was better than expected.

“A lot of our hotels picked up business as a result of areas not having power,” said Lisa Colburn Stewart, area director of public relations for Marriott.

The Key Bridge Marriott, a 588-room hotel in Arlington, was sold out as groups relocated there from other parts of Virginia. At the Crystal Gateway Marriott and Crystal City Marriott, local residents were walking up to the front desk and asking for rooms. Both offered a $109-per-room reduced rate.

The Fairmont Washington D.C. reduced its weekend price to $59, one-third of the usual rate. About 125 rooms for both Friday and Saturday night were filled, said General Manager George Terpilowski.

The 415-room hotel in Northwest lost about 40 percent of its business between Wednesday and Friday because of cancellations.

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