PINEHURST, N.C. — Vince Continenza began getting ready months in advance.
He hired 20 extra people for his restaurant and got an extra truck to park outside and use as a freezer.
It was all part of preparing for the crush of humanity that has descended upon Pinehurst, N.C., for the men’s U.S. Open, with many local businesses benefiting big time from about 300,000 people attending or working at this week’s event (and another 100,000 expected at next week’s U.S. Women’s Open).
It’s the same boom that will be coming to the Puget Sound area next year, when Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place hosts the 2015 U.S. Open.
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Trying to get into a restaurant near Pinehurst without a reservation made weeks in advance? Good luck. Just like you needed luck to find a parking space in the heart of the Village of Pinehurst, located just blocks from the course, after rounds were completed Thursday and Friday.
Continenza owns the upscale Ironwood Cafe, which can seat 300 people at a time and is located a couple of miles from the course in Pinehurst.
“We’re twice as busy as our busiest night ever, and that was starting (last) Sunday,” he said.
Reservations for this weekend were sold out long ago, and Continenza is staying open past the normal closing time. He said Friday that he expects to be seating people until at least 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
“As long as they keep walking in, we’ll keep serving,” he said.
Elliott’s on Linden, another restaurant in Pinehurst, has been “beyond fully booked for weeks,” said owner/chef Mark Elliott, who also owns a catering company that has been “maxed out, too” with many corporate groups having catered events.
“We began taking reservations last year, then it really picked up after the Masters (in April) and the phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” said Elliott, who also hired extra staff.
The extra staff came in handy Thursday night when the restaurant seated 205 people, about double the normal number.
Hotels for miles around have long been sold out, and at greatly inflated prices.
Caleb Miles, chief executive officer of the Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen area visitors and convention bureau, said most spectators are staying in surrounding counties because most rooms at nearby hotels were taken by the United States Golf Association.
Miles said his bureau estimates there will be $109 million in direct spending by visitors to the men’s and women’s championships, with a total financial impact of at least $162 million.
When a story came out in late March that there were still some rooms left at the Holiday Inn Express in Southern Pines (about four miles from Pinehurst) for $450 a night, about six times the normal rate, they were sold quickly, said Jordan Walters, the hotel’s marketing manager.
The boom extends far beyond Pinehurst to places like Fayetteville, about an hour’s drive east of Pinehurst. Hotels are nearly sold out in the city despite huge increases in prices at most of them. The Doubletree by Hilton, for example, still had rooms available last week for a nightly price of $459 on hotels.com. The price a month later is $88 a night.
At Spring Lake, about 35 miles east of Pinehurst, the Super 8 has been booked for weeks for both the men’s and women’s opens.
It hasn’t been all peaches for local restaurants. Linda’s Cafe in Pinehurst, open for breakfast and lunch, has seen its business dip. The owner said not being in the heart of the Village of Pinehurst has hurt, and local customers are staying away because of potential traffic problems.
Businesses in the middle of the village have been packed at night, particularly ones like Dugan’s Pub that sell alcohol. The pub was packed Thursday and Friday with business double the norm, according to a bartender, with even bigger crowds expected as the weekend continues.
In Southern Pines, a few miles to the east, the Ice Cream Parlor has been rocking while Mockingbird, a gift store, has had business gradually pick up as the week has gone on. Owner Sundi McLaughlin said the community has done a great job promoting local businesses.
“At the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, you didn’t see a lot people around the towns,” said Linda Parsons, interim president and CEO of the Moore County Chamber of Commerce. “People were going to the tournament, then going home. This year, we took a much more concerted effort in promoting our businesses, doing things like putting coupon books in the packets for all vendors and volunteers.
“We took a different approach to get people to see beyond the gates (of the golf course).”
Pat McCarthy, the Pierce County executive, said the same economic benefits will come to our region next year. She cites a 2008 study done by San Diego State University that said the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego brought a total economic impact to the region of $142 million.
“The U.S. Open is going to be a great revenue generator for not just the county, but for the entire region and the whole state,” McCarthy said. “There will be a lot of people who will be staying in Seattle, Olympia and into Gig Harbor. This is a regional event.”