For Restaurants, DNC Becomes a Question of Staying Open or Renting Out Spaces

The Democratic Party settled on Philadelphia to host its 2016 national convention. And while it will be a major economic boon (to the tune of up to $300 million say experts), the city's restaurateurs will have to decide whether to keep their doors open or turn away regular clientele in favor of private groups.

"Something of this magnitude is incredible. It's a cash flow injection into the pulmonary system of Philadelphia — not only for restaurants," said Rob Wasserman, owner of Rouge and 500 degrees. "There's a lot of planning that's involved for the restaurants and the event planners [that work with the] hotel concierges. You'll see bookings at restaurants and banquet halls very quickly so that they lock it in."

One of the issues in Philadelphia, however, is that there aren't many private dining spaces to hold big groups that the DNC convention will no doubt bring to town, he said.

"That becomes a decision for the restaurant: Are they willing to close down the restaurant to support the parties?" Wasserman said. "It becomes an interesting thought for your traditional restaurateur. Which way are they going to [go]: Stay open or close?"

The city's restaurateurs will have to decide whether or not the money booked for that private party will outweigh the advantages of opening for regular hours.

"Private dining and private parties can see double in your normal revenue," Wasserman said. "That's why it becomes a question of what you feel you want. Is the money so enticing that you can lock in a deal like that? It's a good opportunity and injection of cash flow."

But it's twofold, said Jeff Benjamin, partner and COO of Vetri Family restaurants.

"The first goal is to remember that once conventioneers leave Philadelphia, our regular guests are still here, so accommodating them throughout [that time] is really paramount to anything else," said Benjamin. "Then again, the convention business is part of the hospitality world and one of the reasons it thrives is because of people who visit out of town. You have to continually weigh it on a case-by-case basis."

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