Hundreds of runners cross the finnish line at Santa Monica Blvd. and Ocean Ave. during the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday morning. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — Streets were slammed with runners and spectators, giving the impression that businesses were benefiting from the influx, but the Los Angeles Marathon didn’t bring the boon that some merchants had hoped for.

In interviews with the Daily Press, several local businesses reported no significant spike in sales on Sunday, March 21 when the marathon ended in Santa Monica for the first time in the race’s history. Hotels along Ocean Avenue were packed, but restaurants in particular experienced roughly the same amount of traffic as they do on a normal Sunday.

“I think [the race and the crowd that came with it were] a deterrent for the people who usually join us on Sunday,” Bryant Coleman, general manager of Ocean Avenue Seafood, said. “Everyone was pretty awe struck.”

Some diners canceled their reservations, Coleman said. He suspects that, “as reality set in, they may have decided not to come in.”

From the outside, the Blue Plate Oysterette on Ocean Avenue looked busy, but in actuality it was just people passing by the restaurant on their way to pick up friends and family who ran in the race, said Salvador d’Auvergne, the restaurant’s general manager. The restaurant is located near the finish line of the race.

Business was about the same, d’Auvergne said, but the free publicity was much appreciated. The goal was to promote the restaurant as much as possible on race day and he is confident that goal was accomplished.

Some businesses, however, suffered significantly. Mariasol, a Mexican restaurant located at the very end of the Santa Monica Pier, experienced poor sales on not only Sunday, but Saturday when the Santa Monica Police Department closed off the pier for several hours because of a potential bomb threat that turned out to be bogus.

Manuel Barrayo, manager of Mariasol, said the restaurant lost money on Sunday because they put extra staff on duty to handle what they expected to be a large crowd of hungry runners and their families. That crowd never materialized.

“We waited all day long,” Barrayo said.

Even though the marathon wasn’t a money maker for Mariasol, Barrayo said he was happy that the race came to Santa Monica anyway.

Marisol wasn’t alone in being practically abandoned. Ben Franz-Knight, executive director of the Pier Restoration Corp., said that ride revenue at Pacific Park was down 45 percent compared to past Sundays.

“We certainly have a lot of work to do going forward, doing a better job of creating the nexus between the marathon and the pier,” he told the City Council Tuesday during a briefing from city staff on the marathon’s impacts.

During that briefing, city staff said months of planning helped with the crowd control, however, it was suggested that next year, if the race ends in Santa Monica, some Downtown streets may be closed to vehicle traffic and others may be converted to one-way to help move traffic out of the area.

Deputy Police Chief Phil Sanchez recommended moving the finish line farther north to mitigate the bottleneck experienced at Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue. Sanchez said no marathon-related arrests were made and no citations issued. The marathon did not impact routine patrols throughout other areas of the city.

City Hall spent a total of 393 hours on the marathon and would be compensated by marathon organizers to the tune of $420,000.

Brian Chase, director of Government Affairs for the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday that sales figures are still coming in.

“I know empirically of course there are areas we can improve, but overall we consider the event a success,” Chase said.

On the Third Street Promenade, business was brisk.

“It definitely was busier than a typical Sunday in Santa Monica,” Debbie Lee, director of marketing at the Bayside District Corp., said. Bayside is a public-private management company that oversees Downtown for City Hall.

Lee said some businesses such as the Interactive Cafe on Broadway opened extra early. The cafe received great business, she said, but McDonald’s did “really, really well.”

“Most of the feedback has been very positive, even those that didn’t see a spike in sales. They felt it was a good event for the community,” Lee said.

The hotels seemed to do the best of all. Alison Best with the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau said hotels across the city were virtually sold out. On the Saturday before the race, there was a 25 percent increase in hotel stays over the same day two years prior. She also said that many stayed at the hotels all weekend long.

“Which means people came for the race, but made a weekend of it and experienced a lot of the things the city has to offer and hopefully generated some revenues along the way as they took in our great attractions,” Best said.

Traffic was an issue, she said, as visitors had problems getting to some of the city’s main attractions, such as the pier and promenade.

One benefit that could not be calculated was the exposure Santa Monica received. Images from the race were broadcast across the country and the globe.

Councilwoman Gleam Davis said there is no doubt that the marathon was a success and should end in Santa Monica next year. In her neighborhood, she saw “kids in their jammies and parents with their cups of coffee” run out of their homes along San Vicente Boulevard to cheer on the runners.

“You have to bring it back,” she said. “There are already plans for block parties … . It was a real inspiring event that brought the community together as a whole.”

Intern Lisa Anderson contributed to this report.

kevinh@www.smdp.com

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