ANNAPOLIS – There was something different about the front of Vespucci’s during lunch on Thursday.
The front of the Italian restaurant and bistro looked more like a backyard barbecue, with hot dogs, chicken and sausage sizzling on a grill.
But Vespucci’s won’t resemble a barbecue much longer. The restaurant is briefly catering to the 29th annual United States Sailboat Show, which has taken over the Annapolis docks a few steps outside the restaurant’s front door.
Vespucci’s manager, Raymond Lubrano, didn’t seem to mind the extra business the temporary barbecue was creating. “We usually do pretty good with the boat shows, but it all depends on the weather,” he said, as rain streamed down.
Vespucci’s is not alone. Businesses and restaurants along the City Dock can expect the sailboat show, running through Monday, and the United States Powerboat Show, which runs Oct. 15- 18, to provide them with an economic boost.
Bill Brust, manager of Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs on Main Street, said the next 11 days will bring some of the restaurant’s best business of the year. He is doubling staff in preparation.
“We’re going to become managing whores,” Brust said. “We’re going to beg, bribe – anything to get a full staff in here.”
About 200 boats will be displayed at each show, and hundreds of booths will sell boating equipment and services.
Manufacturers display their boats and equipment to store owners and recreation sailboat owners.
Susan Zellers, director of the Office of Economic Development in Annapolis, said the boat shows are two of the year’s biggest draws for the historic city, with about 100,000 visitors expected in the week-and-a-half both shows will be here.
The restaurants will be the biggest beneficiaries. “But anything along the docks will definitely see a big increase,” said Zellers.
Fawcett Boat Supplies, located on the docks, is naturally expecting an increase in sales.
“October is huge for us with the boat shows here,” said manager Bill Griffin.
Griffin said the store also has 10 booths at the sailboat show and will have staff working overtime to meet demand. “If you have any spare time over the next week, come work here,” he joked.
A 1988 study by the University of Maryland on the combined benefits of both boat shows revealed that nearly 81 percent of visitors spent money at nearby restaurants, while 38 percent spent in the shops along the docks.
The study said nearly $11.5 million is spent in Annapolis during the shows.
Zellers said area hotels are enforcing minimum stays and that many are full.
“Everyone’s booked solid,” said Colleen Huther, general manager of the Annapolis Marriott Waterfront, which is requiring a four-night minimum stay during the shows. “We have a few rooms left in case of over-booking and walk-in guests, but that’s it.”
The boat shows are used to introduce visitors not just to the waterfront area, but to the city, Zellers said. “While a boater from Philadelphia may come and go to businesses around the docks during the show, hopefully he’ll like the area and come back to shop more extensively,” Zellers said. -30-