GOP gathering brings little lunch business

Downtown restaurants lose out to box meals

By Libby Clark, Columbian Web Editor

Published:

 

Only a handful of diners wearing red party credentials could be spotted in downtown restaurants at the noon hour Friday, the opening day of Vancouver’s largest-ever convention.

About 1,600 Republican delegates, and 2,000 visitors overall, are forecast to descend on Vancouver this weekend for the state GOP convention. They will hear from candidates and vote on the party’s platform heading into the November elections.

The event, held at the Hilton Vancouver Washington and Convention Center, received much publicity as a boon to tourism and downtown businesses when its Vancouver location was announced a year ago. The Southwest Washington Visitor & Convention Bureau competed against Seattle, Tacoma/Pierce County, Snohomish and Bellevue to host the event.

But Friday was business as usual for nearby eateries, a typical situation when conventions serve their own lunch, said Vee Pravisay, manager of Tiger’s Garden, which didn’t bother to prepare for the convention traffic.

Convention organizers distributed box lunches. Diners wearing red lanyards and eating from boxes could be seen scattered throughout Esther Short Park, where political activities and entertainment were taking place.

“When they have conventions, it makes a difference,” Pravisay said, “but we’re the last people to know. So we don’t schedule more people to work and we just do what we can if it gets busy.”

Tommy O’s “unfortunately” brought in an extra server on Friday in anticipation of a lunch hour rush, said manager Lindsay Hernandez, who was disappointed to see only one red lanyard in the restaurant shortly after noon.

Some delegates did break away from the box lunch, however. Eric Stahlfeld, a delegate from Burien, headed out to eat with Clark County delegate Cory Barnes. They went to City Sandwich on East Eighth Street. Stahlfeld said he had an excellent reuben the previous night at his hotel, The Heathman Lodge, and was in search of another good sandwich, he said.

“I thought I’d try a taste of Vancouver,” Stahlfeld said.