RNC not raining money everywhere

The Hunan restaurant makes convetioneers welcome
The Hunan Garden restaurant near the corner of Cedar St. and Sixth Ave. welcomes conventioneers.
MPR Photo/Steve Mullis

The grand, nearly century-old St. Paul Hotel, located about a block from the convention headquarters, is ready to profit handsomely from the coming of the Republicans.

Like dozens of Twin Cities hotels, all of the St. Paul's rooms are booked for the convention. "It's going to be great for the hotel and for the city," said David Miller, the hotel's general manager. "It's a slow week, typically. So, this is nice in that it makes us busy the entire week."

St. Paul Hotel
The St. Paul Hotel in downtown is expected to see additional business during the Republican National Convention.
MPR Photo/Bo Hakala

Miller is so confident in GOP big spenders that the hotel is stocking scotch that goes for $14,000 a bottle.

"It's $525 a shot," Miller said. "It's a Macallan 55-year-old Scotch."

Local limo companies are expecting to get a nice ride out of the convention, too.

Brian Iversrud owns River City Limousine. He said the convention is turning a bad year, when the cost of gas soared, into a good one. Iversrud expects business to triple during the convention.

"All of our vehicles, the clients have reserved them for multiple days and multiple hours per day," Iversrud said. "Some of the vehicles are [out] 16 hours a day. Some are 12 hours a day." Iversrud could be looking at total bookings of $250,000 or more in less than a week.

St. Paul Hotel general manager David Miller says the RNC will be good for the hotel.
MPR Photo/Martin Moylan

Big corporations are spending tens of millions of dollars to help fund the convention, as well as parties, receptions and other goings-on.

Many local bars and restaurants have landed convention-related events, including Solera in Minneapolis. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and other trade associations have booked the Spanish-themed restaurant for several events.

"Our total number of guests for all our events is about 2,500. It makes us very happy," said Julianna Nelson, director of sales and marketing at Solera.

She expects the convention will help businesses throughout the Twin Cities.

"It's bringing so many people to both St. Paul and Minneapolis," Nelson said. "There's a lot of events happening. I do think everyone will see an impact."

"I'm ready for all the craziness."

But some businesses aren't so sure.

The convention business isn't looking especially robust for Cossetta's, an Italian restaurant within a block of the convention headquarters. Frank Cossetta's family runs the restaurant and a catering business.

"Everyone kind of had this feeling that, 'Oh the convention is coming. So, it's going to be a huge noticeable uptick,'" said Cossetta. "And it's not exactly what we have seen."

Among the most disappointed would-be convention profiteers are homeowners who thought they could rent out their abodes for hundreds or thousands of dollars a night. Some did. Most didn't.

Real estate agent Brian Olson launched a Web site to rent homes to convention attendees. He rented just two homes.

River City Limousine owner Brian Iversrud says the RNC will turn a bad year into a good one.
MPR Photo/Martin Moylan

"It was kind of a bust, to be honest with you," Olson said.

Olson's still puzzling over the reason.

"It just seemed that the demand wasn't there," he said. "I don't know if that had to do with the pricing."

But Olson said there are some still-hopeful homeowners willing to cut last-minute deals.

Miyoko Omori is still hoping, too. But so far, "I haven't seen anyone from the convention," she said.

Omori owns the Sakura Japanese restaurant just a few blocks from the convention headquarters in St. Paul. She thought she'd already be getting lots of business from workers prepping the Xcel Energy Center for the convention. But that hasn't happened.

And Omori has only booked one, disappointing convention event. It's just for 100 people.

"Hopefully, like everybody said, it's going to be crazy-busy," she said. "And I'm ready for all the craziness."

The convention is virtually guaranteed to be crazy. Whether anyone gets crazy rich from it is another question.

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