Hurricane Arthur’s heavy rains may have dampened some Fourth of July festivities, but the storm also whetted local appetites.
Boston restaurateurs say the storm boosted business on Friday as revelers canceled backyard cookouts and tourists centered their day around dining after typical outdoor tourist attractions were rained out.
“People had nothing to do but go to restaurants,” said Bob Luz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. “As opposed to walking the Freedom Trail, you walked over to the Cheesecake Factory or Davio’s.”
Roger Berkowitz, chief executive of Legal Sea Foods, worried that scores of residents would take advantage of the Friday holiday and leave the city empty for the long weekend. Instead, the rain interrupted some travel plans and sales at his restaurants climbed 5 percent over last year.
“I was going into it thinking that it could be a tough weekend,” Berkowitz said. “The rain on that one day was just enough to turn the tide a little bit.”
Frank DePasquale, the owner of several North End restaurants including Bricco, Mare, and Quattro, said he also benefited when city dwellers waited for the storm to pass before heading to Cape Cod or other parts of New England on Saturday.
“The streets were hammered and it was busy,” he said. “In this situation, the storm helped.”
But restaurateurs with outdoor patios didn’t fare as well.
Restaurant dante along the Charles River at the Royal Sonesta Hotel draws scores of guests eager to enjoy a meal while watching the fireworks each year. Dante de Magistris, chef and co-owner, sold out a five-course beer dinner planned for Friday, but canceled the event when the fireworks were bumped up by a day.
Some of the beer dinner guests rescheduled their reservations for Thursday, but there were too many existing reservations that evening to move the entire event. As a result, the $100-per-plate cost of the beer dinner was replaced with average checks of $40 to $45.
The weekend wasn’t a total wash, though. He said his il Casale restaurants in Lexington and Belmont were surprisingly busy on Friday.
“A lot of people who were staying local planned to grill, but because of the bad weather they came to us instead,” de Magistris said. “Overall, it was a good weekend.”
The impacts of the storm on the Boston tourism industry were mostly benign, but some companies that specialize in outdoor activities were greatly affected.
Boston Harbor Cruises operates about 75 boat trips and rides on a variety of vessels each day. All 38 trips to the Boston Harbor Islands, five rides on its speed boat, the “Codzilla,” and one whale-watching excursion were canceled on Friday because of the weather.
“We carried 25 percent of the ridership we usually carry over a sunny Fourth of July,” said Alison Nolan, principal of Boston Harbor Cruises. “It’s pretty significant because the holiday is one of the busiest days of the year.”
Hoteliers say the storm had little impact on their establishments because many travelers booked trips in advance and couldn’t cancel flights without paying expensive airline fees.
The Revere Hotel operated at a 98 percent occupancy over the weekend with few cancellations. Simon Mais, general manager, said the weather probably deterred some impromptu trips by local travelers.
And while the hotel’s rooftop lounge closed Friday and lost $20,000 on the day, it outperformed expectations for the weekend. In addition, another restaurant on the property, Rustic Kitchen, kept busy serving hotel guests who didn’t want to venture out into the rain, Mais said.
The Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau said 206,500 travelers visited the region from Thursday to Sunday, an increase from the 192,000 who spent the holiday weekend here last year. Visitor spending also jumped to $19.8 million from $17.8 million in 2013.