Businesses in Annapolis see meeting as holiday bonus

Visitors mean revenue in usually sluggish week

December 22, 2004|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,SUN STAFF

Annapolis business owners are likening next week's special session of the General Assembly to an unexpected holiday bonus -- one that will infuse the state capital with profits at a time when the city usually settles down for a short winter's nap.

"For a lot of hotels and restaurants in the area, including us, it's a benefit," said Tracy Connolly, sales manager for the Marriott Waterfront Hotel. Because of the session, the hotel "picked up a few reservations that we were not expecting," Connolly said.

The special session, the first of its kind to be called in the past decade, is expected to draw at least half of the state's 188 lawmakers to wrestle with the issue of medical liability insurance and is scheduled for at least two days starting Tuesday.

That's just enough visitors and time to stimulate an otherwise sluggish week for local businesses, said Bob Burdon, president of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce.

"Bringing the session back means economic activity that was not anticipated," Burdon said. "That's really nice for Annapolis."

Mike Miron, director of the city's Office of Economic Development, agreed.

"I think it will be a Christmas gift to city businesses," Miron said. "Typically, that week is a lull time for the restaurant and service industries, so I think they are looking forward to the session."

Miron added that despite the numerous road construction projects taking place around the city, he does not expect the session to cause traffic jams.

"West Street is open now, and Rowe Boulevard is moving smoothly," he said, referring to two of the city's main arteries. "We don't expect any problems, and think the session will be a real boon."

For a few local business owners, however, it will be nothing more than a missed opportunity.

"We're closed next week, and it's been that way for 35 years," said Rick Farais, manager of Chick & Ruth's Delly on Main Street, a popular diner that often delivers sandwiches to committee meetings during the regular 90-day General Assembly session in January. "We won't be drawing a lunch crowd this time around."

At Loews Annapolis Hotel on West Street, which usually is home to 40 delegates during the regular session, a $3 million renovation project is under way -- which means half the hotel's rooms are closed. The other half, according to manager Larry Beiderman, are already booked.

"Unfortunately, our construction did not go along with the governor's timing," Beiderman said. "So, we're unable to host our usual guests."

Still, Beiderman said he and his staff are helping lawmakers find accommodations at other hotels, and he said that the construction will be completed by the start of the regular session.

The staff at Harry Brown's -- a popular restaurant and watering hole for lawmakers on State Circle -- is anticipating a heavier-than-usual lunch crowd next week, said owner Rusty Romo. But he doesn't expect a busy bar crowd because the session falls between two holidays, a time when many people are off.

"I think most of them are going to want to get things done, then high-tail it out of town," Romo said. "They don't want to be here for New Year's."

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