Area businesses prepare for big weekend with GOP

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Area businesses are hoping to cash in on a big weekend. The city will host the 2014 Indiana Republican Convention beginning Friday night, and the event will bring in nearly 2,500 people between state delegates, elected officials, and candidates.

For the first time, the state GOP convention will be held outside of Indianapolis.  The additional crowds will go noticed at area hotels and restaurants.

Jon Issa, the executive chef at Main Street Bistro, is expecting more customers at the restaurant.

“Our staff is full and prepared,” Jon Issa, the executive chef at Main Street Bistro and Martini Lounge, said. “We’ve seen an increase in reservations starting today.”

According to Issa, Main Street Bistro normally has anywhere from 150 to 200 people on a typical weekend.  However, this weekend, Main Street Bistro could see between 250 to 300 customers.

Steven Kulas, general manager at Eddie Merlot’s, has also noticed an increase in reservations for this weekend.  “We noticed that our numbers were looking up. We’ve increased staffing,” he said.

Kulas said that 50-75 reservations have already been made at Eddie Merlot’s for this weekend.

Both Eddie Merlot’s and Main Street Bistro, along with other Fort Wayne restaurants, will participate in a sampling event at Parkview Field, hoping that many will come back for more throughout the weekend. The sampling event runs from 7:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. Friday.

Restaurants aren’t the only businesses that are seeing an increase in reservation.

Downtown hotels such as the Courtyard by Marriott Fort Wayne Downtown at the Grand Wayne Center and the Hilton Fort Wayne at the Grand Wayne Convention Center are completely booked for the weekend.

“We’ve been 100% full since the day they approached us, which was seven months ago,” said Dale Nysetvold, the general manager at the Courtyard by Marriott. “I think it’s a great event for the city to showcase itself. Fort Wayne provides a stellar customer service to guests. Embassy Theater, the Grand Wayne Center, Parkview Field, and all our local businesses take a great deal of pride in providing that service.”

Close to 500 rooms are reserved between the two downtown hotels.  A spokesperson at Hotel Fort Wayne said her hotel is completely booked, too.

Dan O’Connell, president and CEO of Visit Fort Wayne, said hosting the convention is a big deal for the city, and the weekend is a chance for Fort Wayne to show the rest of the state how the city has grown and has a lot to offer.

“There isn’t always an opportunity to showcase our downtown to the civic, business, and political leaders of the state,” O’Connell said. “This is going to be one of the biggest weekends of the year.”

The Indiana Republican Convention will begin Friday at the Grand Wayne Center at 5:30pm with candidate speeches, and nominees will be selected on Saturday morning. The weekend event will conclude with a complimentary concert for the officials by Kenny Loggins at Embassy Theatre on Saturday night.

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