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The RNC and our local eating and drinking places in St. P.

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I live not all that far from downtown St. Paul and had figured that our local places on Grand and Selby and West Seventh would be mobbed. So I resolved to stay as far away as possible. One night I was hungry for a particular sandwich at a place on Selby and called ahead to see if I could get in. The place was empty. So I went over and had my choice of tables. The owner was quite disgusted. Seems the local people were all staying away and there was no convention traffic. Same thing the next night at another place. Same story the night after that at yet another place. (I was going before 10:00 pm when the speeches ended but was told the places were not getting traffic after that either.) So it seems like the local places didn't benefit and may even have been hurt.

I would guess the big catering places and big restaurants where events were held in Minneapolis and probably the hotel restaurants did well but not the other small places especially in St. Paul.

Other observations?

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  1. I'm guessing most of their schedules were booked to the minute, and you are probably right about the catering and big event restaurants. I also heard a radio interview where one of the delegates said they took a bus to St. Paul every day, then right back to their hotel in DT Minneapolis, and stuck close to the hotel for partying.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cheetobrain

      That seems to be the verdict from the Star Tribune postmortem today.

    2. thanks for posting this! listening to mpr it sounds like meritage and a few other very close places did very well, but apparently no traffic on grand ave or in the neighborhood bistros. there didn't seem to be too many posts on the boards looking for specific recs prior to the rnc, and business owners told me their reservations were *down* if anything that week. did everybody order room service?

      i did go to hell's kitchen for a late breakfast one day of rnc-- because i'm an *idiot*-- they seemed quite busy for a weekday but the wait was < 5mins, our food came out really fast, seemed like they had staffed up for the convention and were handling it well.

      1. A friend who works as a server at a newer grand ave eatery of the non-independent variety just yesterday commented on how terrible business was last week. he said he routinely clears 5-600 dollars a week and just barely scraped 100 last week.

        interestingly this was in response to me telling him we had eaten there friday night and found about a half hour wait for indoor seating and an 80% full patio.

        he said thursday he had one table all night.

        it would seem that some combination of disinterest in finding local gems and protesters and hurricanes rained on what should have been a pretty awesome chow parade.

        at least the smug, offensive and generic posts from out of town delebots are over.

        1. Overheard in St. Paul: the door man at the St. Paul Hotel said they did "bumper crop" business during the convention.

          At least it was busy somewhere. Every place we went during that time span was d-e-a-d.

          1. I'm crushed to hear that St. Paul businesses didn't do better during the convention. :( I had hoped they would all be packed, both to get them a boost and to showcase some of what we have in St. Paul. After all, that's why cities compete to host such events, right? So, now taxpayers shell out a bunch of money for security etc. so our businesses could sit idle? What a lousy shame. Also, I heard that West 7th businesses were empty due to some last minute snow fencing making it difficult to get to restaurants on that side of the XCel?

            Of course, Zimmern is singing a different song in comments to his blog saying most everyone he spoke to was going gangbusters.

            I guess that's why we come to Chowhound for first hand info. ;-)

            Also, Dara mentioned something in her MN Monthly "Ask Dara" blog that some local "inspectors" (one says she was visited 4 times during the convention) were going around town during the convention telling restauranteurs that they can't buy direct from farmers or farmers markets! I can't tell from replies to her blog whether it was a scam, misunderstanding, or poor execution of new rules, but that's a problem that seriously needs attention...


            1. I work at a restaurant in downtown St. Paul and we weren't even open the day that McCain was in town. From what I hear they were lucky if they saw two tables all night the rest of the week. I also have a friend who works for a large, upscale venue in Mpls that was booked for a huge event one of the nights and only got 20% of their projected attendance. Fortunately everything was paid for ahead of time by the organizer but it's still an incredible waste of food. I know of several other restaurants that stocked up on food, booze, staff, etc, and did considerably worse business than normal.

              1. the folks at the strip club, when i visited, said the week of the rnc was the worst week they've had in the history of the (young) restaurant. :( seems like the indies really took it in the pants! makes me wonder how the chains did. grr.