Room bookings exceeded the expectations of some hoteliers, but left others disappointed. Business was brisk at some restaurants and bars, but the crowds bypassed others. The three-day event drew larger-than-usual crowds to downtown Baltimore on the ordinarily sleepy Labor Day weekend, but concerns about congestion seemed to chase some people away from the city.
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A spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said a "preliminary" read of the numbers indicates that the cost of extra police, public works and other services did not "greatly exceed the $500,000 reimbursement" that Baltimore Racing Development owes the city. The city received $6.5 million in federal and state funds for road repairs, two-thirds of which does not need to be repaid.
"What the numbers will show is with that investment, we will have had a significant economic investment that we otherwise would not have had," spokesman Ryan O'Doherty said.
Baltimore Racing Development had projected that visitor spending on hotels, food, entertainment and transportation would inject $70 million into the city and state economy in the first year.
Officials said the race drew more than the 100,000 visitors projected by Baltimore Racing Development. Race organizers estimated the three-day crowd at as much as 160,000.
But it was unclear on Tuesday whether those numbers had translated into the 58,000 hotel nights that organizers had projected — good, they predicted, for more than $12 million — or whether race fans had bought nearly 500,000 meals, estimated at another $12 million.
The InterContinental Harbor Court Baltimore, which charged higher rates and required guests to book a minimum of three nights, sold out on Friday and Saturday, and filled 70 percent of its rooms on Thursday and Sunday — better than the 50 percent occupancy rate for Labor Day weekend last year.
The hotel took in twice as much as expected in food and beverage sales, said John Stowell, director of sales and marketing.
But managers of the Best Western Plus Envoy on East Fayette Street said business fell short of expectations. The 49-room hotel was 90 percent full; they had expected to sell it out.
Still, said Katie Dang, an assistant to the general manager, "It was a very good idea that we bring [the race] into town so business can pick up during the holiday. Otherwise there would be no demand."
David Reel, president and chief executive of the Maryland Hotel and Lodging Association, said he had been hearing positive reports from association members, but little in the way of solid numbers.
"The general sense I'm getting is … they were pleased with the traffic," Reel said. "The key is what's going to happen next year. It appears now there is no question that this is a viable event. The real question is how much better will it do next year."
The impact on restaurants was similarly uneven.
The Chameleon Cafe in Lauraville reported record Labor Day reservations, and bookings were high all weekend at the Prime Rib in Mount Vernon. The Brewer's Art in Mid-Town Belvedere did sluggish business on Friday and Saturday, but was "bananas" on Sunday evening, assistant manager Megan Parker said.
But some of the restaurants that had the highest expectations had disappointing returns. Restaurateurs in Little Italy closed High Street to traffic, but the move drew little interest from visitors.
Business was down for Nick's Fish House. The Port Covington restaurant promoted a free shuttle to and from the event but found few takers.
"We had our worst Labor Day ever," said manager Theresa Shoemaker. "That really hurt us because this is traditionally the last weekend for crab season."