One of my favorite things in life is when my readers, who’s IQs generally range to the right side of the bell curve, ask some truly cogent questions. It shows they’ve been thinking!
And I have to say I’ve been appreciating you all a little bit more lately because, after making the mind numbing mistake of engaging in a facebook debate yesterday, I’m now facing a long mental recovery. Some folks certainly aren’t shy about letting the rest of us know they’re a couple beers short of a twelve pack.
The inquiries in question came as a result of this week’s column on last Sunday evening’s Grand Victoria backed Festival Park concert. Considering the colossal crowd, I proclaimed that, had the event been held on a weekend night, Elgin’s bars and restaurants would’ve been packed.
Citing that kind of potential, I encouraged the City of Elgin to partner with the Grand Victoria in their effort to turn Festival Park into a top flight music venue and also to share in those inevitable concert expenses.
It was at that point that those cerebrally agile readers chimed in with the fact that, even in its halcyon days, the Grand Victoria’s success never quite translated into that boost for the rest of the downtown. And they’re dead on.
Gamblers come to Elgin – or any other casino – to gamble. If they’re going to take a break to get a bite, it’s gonna be at a casino restaurant. When they leave, they’ll take the short trip across the River to Route 31 and then it’s Route 20 or I-90 back home.
One reader further contended that, before we give these boat concerts the financial key to the city, if Prairie Rock, the closest restaurant to the casino, couldn’t survive, what hope is there for the eateries that aren’t within eyesight?
So here’s my response!
1. The GV gives back!
I love repeating this because it’s almost as rare as a Councilman Terry Gavin moment of silence. The Pritzker family, through the Grand Victoria Foundation, gives 20 percent of the profit right back to the community – no questions asked.
So even if I’m dead wrong about this theoretical concert trickled down, helping the GV stay afloat benefits the City of Elgin on a myriad of levels above and beyond the million bucks a year in rent and their regular cut of the revenue.
2. Concert goers are different from gamblers.
They’re a whole different breed who will head to Elgin to enjoy a pleasant outdoor evening and, after having a great time, will be far more prone to exploring what might be going on in the city center. The GV doesn’t have the kind of bar that attracts classic rock concert patrons, but downtown Elgin certainly does.
In addition, the most recent crowd stretched back the full length of the park and a great many of the attendees parked on the street. This goes a long way towards offsetting the contained nature of the casino itself and spreading the customer wealth throughout the downtown area.
3. Sometimes business owners have to pitch in too!
Let’s say I’m the owner of the Elgin Public House (best hummus plate ever!). Considering my large capacity and a nifty parking garage right across the street, the first thing I’m going to do is rent a school bus for the evening.
Then I’ll offer a concert package that includes parking, dinner, shuttle service to the venue, and maybe a couple of drinks afterward. We’d have the featured artists’ music playing in the bar and perhaps even offer some licensed merchandise.
People love to talk about a good experience so give ‘em the opportunity to do just that. My friends will attest that I haven’t shutup about it all week.
Without casting aspersions on any particular Elgin business, it always pays to remember that the good Lord tends to help those who help themselves. The mere fact that a business exists is typically not enough to get anyone to walk through the front door.
4. Nothing could’ve saved Prairie Rock.
When my wife and I lived in Streamwood in the mid 90’s, we loved the first incarnation of that restaurant and it was almost always packed. But when that success went directly to their heads, the service started to suck, and the rest is history.
How can you not get a rare steak right? All you have to do is not cook it! Sometimes a business is its own worst enemy and no amount of a tailwind can save it.
In the end, I just don’t see a downside for the City and boat to form a partnership to promote and make these concerts a regular reality. And these kind of win-win situations don’t come along very often in life.
As Mayor Kaptain said at a recent aldermanic gathering, if a new business came to Elgin to provide the kind of opportunities the Grand Victoria already does, the City Council would leap at the opportunity. So now it’s time to start leaping.