Just like the mix of music heard at BottleRock, Napa merchants are reporting a mixed impact on their businesses during the five-day music marathon.
“Sales were double normal” during much of the event, said Joe Peatman, owner of Downtown Joe’s on Main Street. After a tepid start on Wednesday and Thursday, the crowds descended on downtown.
“All day Saturday and Sunday, we were at maximum,” Peatman said. That translates to about 400 guests at the Main Street bar and restaurant.
“I think the choice to allow people to go in and out of the venue was so important for my business because on Thursday things were quite a bit slower and we were slightly disappointed,” he said.
Peatman described seeing crowds 10 deep “walking up and down the sidewalks in every direction.”
“We met so many new people that had never been to Napa before. We think it allowed us to generate quite a bit of future visitors,” he said.
Tom Finch at Filippi’s Pizza Grotto on First Street in the Oxbow district had a similar experience.
“On Thursday night, you could have shot a cannon off in my restaurant and not hit anybody,” Finch said. “But Thursday at 10 p.m. we got hit” by crowds leaving BottleRock. On Friday night, he was selling pizza by the slice to eager crowds. “We got bombed. The whole place filled up and everyone was happy.”
Saturday night was more of the same, but “our business suffered on Sunday. People didn’t want to come down here and fight the traffic on Mother’s Day.”
Even though Finch said his business was a little off, he gives BottleRock a thumbs up. Next year, he’ll know more of what to expect and bring staff in later in the evening. “I think it’s great. I’d welcome it back,” he said.
Sara Brooks, general manager at the Napa River Inn, said her hotel had long sold out of multinight packages for BottleRockers. The festival was a success at her property, she said.
“Our guests seemed to really like it. We got good feedback,” she said. “There was some confusion on the in-and-out policy, but overall, “It was fantastic.”
While her guests were able to walk back and forth to the Expo, “we had plenty of parking here” for short-term visitors and hotel guests.
She hasn’t yet planned any packages for 2014 BottleRock dates, which also take place Mother’s Day weekend. “While it’s great from a hotel perspective, it’s too bad they dropped the Thursday night” lineup. “That was what made that weekend for us,” she said.
With a three-day event, most visitors would only need a Friday and Saturday night hotel stay, Brooks said. “Those are two nights we are already busy. We will definitely support them next year,” but “it’s too bad it’s a shorter time frame.”
Not every local merchant reaped BottleRock rewards.
“For the last four days our phones have hardly rung,” said Ron Kane of Napa Valley Classics on Monday morning. His business is located at the corner of Third and Soscol, a hub of BottleRock traffic.
Customers had nowhere to park if they did try to brave the traffic on Soscol. Kane said he lost around $3,000 in business during the five days.
“It essentially shut us down,” he said. “I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to recover from that.”
He was appreciative of the plentiful security around his motorcycle shop, Kane said. He planned to sell T-shirts and other sundries, but BottleRockers seemed to have only one thing in mind and that was getting into the Expo, he said.
“They just walked by. The focus was on the event.”
Next year, “I may have to shut down,” he said. Or “maybe I can do motorcycle parking in my building. That the only other thing I can think of. There really isn’t much for my business to coincide with this.”
With temperatures in the 80s, some BottleRockers appreciated the frozen treats at Ron DeLay’s Frati Gelato cafe on the Riverfront promenade.
“It was slow the first couple days and then Saturday and Sunday it improved significantly,” he said. An employee with a portable sign near Downtown Joe’s helped steer some customers his way, he said.
Next year he’ll do more promotions to draw customers his way. “Everyone has a tendency to turn right” after crossing west over the bridge, he noted. “We’ll do something to get people coming to the Riverfront.”
DeLay thinks the projected crowds scared away some locals from venturing into downtown.
“I think we need to make sure all our local patrons know there is parking, and it’s still a viable place to come even in the middle of the festival.”
“It was definitely quieter than usual,” said Randy Bowman of Napa Valley Wine & Cigar. Whereas Bowman and his wife, Carrie Bowman, worried BottleRockers would want to park in their lot, “we had no issues with parking whatsoever,” Bowman said.
“The biggest issue for us was there weren’t the usual tourists in town,” he said. Less than a dozen BottleRockers visited their business during the festival, he estimated. “We weren’t sure what to expect or whether we’d get a big influx or not.” The response “was a bit disappointing.”
John Prittie, owner of Beau Fleurs Flower Company on Silverado Trail, had also been concerned about BottleRockers parking at his business, as well as Silverado Trail closures. “It was such an unknown as to what was going to happen,” he said. As it turned out, “we didn’t experience any problems. It was a piece of cake.”
No one tried to park at his business on Silverado Trail, and there was no back-up of traffic near his entrance.
He does think that BottleRock impacted Mother’s Day business in general. “I think some people may have thought, ‘Let’s not send flowers because it’s going to be hard to get them delivered,’” Prittie said.
Overall, “We’re very happy with how everything went. The only real downside is we had to work the whole time and didn’t get to go to BottleRock,” he said.