If you’re going out this weekend to enjoy solar eclipse events, you might want to bring along lunch.
Restauranteurs are predicting packed houses and long waits with the influx of what could be thousands of guests coming to view a natural phenomenon Monday that is billed as a once-in-a-lifetime happening.
“This could be Columbia’s biggest event ever and everyone is going to want to go out to eat,” said John Durst, executive director of the Restaurant and Lodging Association of South Carolina.
Restauranteurs across the Columbia area are bracing for what some say could be significant crowds of diners and high demand for catered meals.
Good Life Cafe in downtown Columbia is gearing up for what house manager Kelly Murphy predicts “could be some record days, certainly.”
Others second that sentiment. “It should be crazy,” said Blair Sims, co-owner of The Root Cellar in Lexington. “We really expect a huge weekend.”
Many are featuring special eclipse drinks and menus on Monday, which is usually their day off.
The Main Street Public House restaurant in downtown Columbia is already nearly fully booked from advanced reservations for most of the weekend, manager David Wingard said. His staff also is working on a special cocktail. “We haven’t perfected it yet, but it will be ready,” Wingard said.
Operators of food carts and food trucks expect to be very busy.
“We’re going to do terrific,” said Alex Keyser, operator of KC Hot Dogs. “I expect to sell triple-plus what I normally do.”
Keyser expects his work days to double to 18 hours this weekend as he moves his cart from Main Street in Columbia during the day to craft breweries at night.
Matt Kennell, president and CEO of the City Center Partnership that encourages and guides investment in Columbia’s central business district, said some Main Street firms plan to cater lunch for their employees.
“We anticipate that the restaurants are going to be swamped,” he said. “With the hotels full . . . we anticipate it’s going to be a banner day.”
But uncertainty over the number of out-of-towners coming on day trips had Kennell adding a caveat about expectations: “Nobody knows for sure.”
Still, Durst said that not only will hotels and restaurants benefit from the event, “but the overall economic impact is going to be awesome. And also, think of the worldwide exposure we’re going to get, not just in Columbia, but statewide.”
Local tourism officials aren’t predicting the overall economic impact, saying it’s outside their experience.
Some experts predict as many as a million people may come to South Carolina for the eclipse, with half of them in the Columbia area because it has one of the longest viewing periods on the East Coast.
The sky is predicted to be totally dark in mid-afternoon for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
“The total eclipse is going to give us the rare opportunity to showcase our people, our attractions and our world-class hospitality,” Durst said.
The staff at the Motor Supply Company restaurant in Columbia’s Vista is featuring a menu and drinks devised for the eclipse with names such as Sunglasses at Night.
“It’s going to be hectic,” manager Sarah Allen said. “But we’re really excited.”