Local Restaurants Claim Few Benefits from Quicken Loans Golf Tournament

| August 19, 2015 | 0 Comments | Bristow Biz
Maaza 29 is located in the Gainesville Shopping Center.

Maaza 29 is located in the Gainesville Shopping Center.

The Quicken Loans National Tour held at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville brought more than 100,000 visitors to Prince William County; however, Gainesville restaurant managers said business was disappointing during the week of July 30 to Aug. 2 when the golf fans were in town.

Many restaurant owners and managers were expecting to benefit from the influx of visitors to the western end of the county; however, they reported only modest gains.

Emanuel Reta, the owner of Maaza 29, a modern Ethiopian restaurant located less than a mile from RTJ, was excited about the prospect of serving new customers. He even offered as an incentive a passenger van to transport tournament attendees to and from the golf club to his restaurant.

No one took him up on his offer.

Reta did not believe he received any new business based upon the event and noticed the parking lot of his shopping center, which houses several restaurants, was no busier than usual. He learned there was little incentive for people to leave the golf club as the golf club served breakfast and lunch and even invited Ruth Chris Steakhouse as a vendor, even though the restaurant chain does not have a location in Prince William County.

Restaurant managers knew RTJ would provide onsite food vendors, but there were also other factors that likely impeded tourism into the county. Many volunteers and spectators parked at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow and were bused directly to the golf tournament, thus never getting a chance to explore Gainesville.

RTJ also provided shuttle service to Tysons Corners so that guests could stay at luxury hotels there. This hurt local business as people attended the event in Prince William but spent their money in Fairfax after the conclusion of the tournament each day.

“It made it so it is particularly hard to go off campus,” Reta said.

Reta said it would have been nice if the golf tournament spurred more business, which is what many business owners, restaurant and shop managers had expected.

“In the end, we depend on our local people. Our business is not based upon the people coming to the golf course; however, I feel we lost a good opportunity to show off local restaurants,” Reta said.

Based on the businesses Bristow Beat interviewed, only a few fared better during the tournament, and then only marginally so.

Taylor Mahle, bar manager for Eggspectations in Gainesville, which is located about a mile from the tournament, said, “I don’t think we were affected whatsoever.”

He said his manager expected a rush of patrons, but he did not.

“I’ve been here for the golf tournaments before, and in the past nothing has changed from it either,” Mahle said.

Over at the Promenade at Virginia Gateway, restaurants saw a small uptick, but not in line with what they were expecting.

“We did not see a big increase in sales for this event,” said Austin Williamson, General Manager of Buffalo Wild Wings at Virginia Gateway. “Most of the guests that came from this event came during lunch and were trying to hydrate before going back out in the sun.”

Landon DuPont, General Manager of Bar Louie, said he saw only a slight increase in business at his restaurant over the weekend, but, during the week, the restaurant was probably more hurt by the tour.

The one retail establishment that fared well was Golfsmith at Virginia Gateway.

Manager Bobby Dotson said that Golfsmith rewarded Quicken Loans National volunteers with 15 percent discounts and they also had members of the Tiger Woods Foundation in their store. He thought it was a great way to reintroduce the store to the neighborhood.

Dotson said Golfsmith always benefits from golf events in the area.

Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman At-Large Corey Stewart sympathized with the businesses, but said that people coming into the county to visit is nonetheless positive overall.

“We know 100,000 people came into the county. We don’t know, and won’t for a while, what impact that had on sales. Ultimately, having a regulatory golf tournament brings positive attention to the county, highlights some of the amenities of the county, and it brands the county in a very positive way.”

Stewart said golf tours bring in business people from around the country.

“You never know when one of those people is going to choose Prince William County as a result of a trip here [in which] they became familiar with the county. At the end of the day, it’s all positive for the county, and we won’t know immediately what kind of positives outcomes [have occurred.]”

Stewart said it is true that Prince William does not have enough upscale hotels, but more are being built. There is a new hotel planned for the Promenade at Virginia Gateway. There is a five-star resort planned for the eastern end of the county, that is “more exclusive than any other resort in the D.C. region,” Stewart said.

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Club is a private enterprise, and Stewart said they needed to bring in food vendors to be competitive. However, he said it would be worth investigating how to get more tourists out into the community next time Prince William hosts a similar event.

Reta would appreciate that. He believes Prince William has a lot to offer, but people need to be willing to explore, to try new restaurants, and he would appreciate however the county could get the word out.

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