Salt Lake City may have expected a lot of traffic on its streets and in its restaurants this week, but so far things have been pretty normal. In fact, some restaurants complain business is worse than usual.
Officials of restaurants located near the Salt Palace - such as Benihana's of Tokyo, Marie Callender's Restaurant and Bakery and The Boardwalk - all say business has been slower than usual - they're not even getting their regular customers.All that comes on the heels of hype about how congested the downtown area is supposed to be because of the 40th National Square Dance Convention as well as the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition and the Utah Arts Festival.
Jody Franson, owner of The Boardwalk, said the people in charge of the convention mailed restauranteurs letter after letter telling them to be prepared for the large crowds restaurants could expect to be serving during the week. So far, "it's like a ghost town down here," she said.
Franson said her restaurant is empty. "I do better on a normal day; I haven't even had my regular customers."
Jim Richins, assistant manager of Marie Callender's on Foothill Blvd., said the restaurant across from the Salt Palace was prepared for crowds but has lost money because the crowds haven't materialized.
Gus Daskalakis, owner of Dask's Greek To Me restaurant in the Food Court in Crossroads Plaza, said restaurants were warned to stock extra food but so far he has seen "nothing exceptional."
Although some restaurant managers may be losing business, there are still many that are reaping the benefits of the hungry square dancers. Other employees in the Food Court said there have rarely been empty seats.
Richard E. Davis, director of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, didn't think there would be a problem with restaurants running out of food as they did when the convention was here in 1973. Apparently, he was right.
Davis attributes the current restaurant-food abundance to the fact that there are more restaurants now than there were 18 years ago.
City departments were also worried about traffic problems during the week because the convention and the arts festival are expected to attract more than 100,000 participants and visistors.
Moreover, the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition is expected to draw a crowd of about 2,500 to 3,000 people a day.
Davis said the bureau was concerned about the amount of traffic the square dance convention would bring in because there is a larger percentage of cars at this convention than there are normally.
"Most of the people will be driving in because this is a very family-oriented activity. Some people have vacation time before and after the convention and will stick around to see Utah and its national parks."
Davis said when bureau officials found out the convention was scheduled for the same weekend as the Arts Festival, "we went into high gear to coordinate with the Utah Transit Authority and the Salt Lake Police Department to arrange for overflow parking lots with additional buses."
Utah Transit Authority has added 28 buses just for shuttling people back and forth from parking areas to the Salt Palace to lessen the amount of traffic in the Salt Palace area.
Sgt. Scott Atkinson, public information officer for the Salt Lake City Police Department, said there haven't been any major traffic problems yet.
"We hope that we put out enough satisfactory information about parking and buses that there won't be a problem," he said. "We're hoping people will park in the right places, but if problems arise, we'll deal with them one at a time."