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Air Show to send Lauderdale beach business soaringShare
Fort Lauderdale beach expects to host at least 200,000 people at its first ever Air Show next weekend, and area hotels and restaurants hope for a skyward boost to business.
At the 650-room Marriott's Harbor Beach Resort and Spa, at least 30 percent of rooms sold next weekend will be directly linked to the show, said sales and marketing manager Jay Marsella.
"We're expecting to be sold out the whole weekend. The show really helps," said Marsella, noting that rooms at special Air Show rates starting at $299 a night have been nearly all snapped up.
The mid-priced Café Bluefish near Sunrise Boulevard expects at least twice the sales of a usual April weekend, said bartender Cindy Burlingame. The 165-seat cafe will offer a limited menu to serve customers fast. And it will make lots of frozen drinks, popular for event goers trying to cool down."We're expecting quite a bit of overflow from everyone coming across the bridge," Burlingame said. "They've got to get out of the heat."
The new Air Show fills a void left with the 2007 shutdown of the previous Air and Sea Show that drew up to 500,000 spectators to the beach and ranked as a marquee event for tourism in the area.
Beachfront hotels that have opened since 2007 are eager supporters.
The 517-room W Fort Lauderdale serves as the show's headquarters hotel.
"I'd be surprised if we don't sell out," said marketing manager Leia Bosco. She said the W has been offering show rates starting at $349 a night, and its restaurants, including Steak 954, feature viewing packages for locals.
The 240-room B Ocean Fort Lauderdale touts a $239 per person day-pass for the view, buffet and bar at its penthouse ballroom and for valet parking nearby, said general manager Eduardo Fernandez.
Not everyone is thrilled.
At the Casablanca Café, an upscale restaurant catering mainly to locals, the former Air and Sea Show hurt business. The shutdown of the beachfront road the Monday before the show made it hard to reach the cafe for days. Parking fees soared on the weekend, turning off people not attending the event. And many show goers picnicked on the beach, rather than dine out, said manager Dave Townsend.
Casablanca might have cashed in by selling beer and burgers on its sidewalk on show days, but former show organizers limited street sales to an out-of-town company, said Townsend. He hopes for better coordination with organizers and more opportunities for local business with the new show.
Long street closures also worry others along AIA, including owners of McSorley's Bar, Sundeck and Lounge who expect business during the Air Show to be "absolutely crazy."
"It's really compressed. You get very busy for two days, but you lose your business for days before and after," said co-owner Donal Kearney..
On each show day, McSorley's plans to sell out its upscale rooftop lounge to 150 guests paying $250 per person for open bar and food. The downstairs pub likely will be packed, as planes soar above the sea.
"It's something new. It's good for the city," said Kearney. "It will be fun."