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'It's a huge event for us': Downtown Grand Rapids businesses look forward to more customer foot traffic during ArtPrize

While local management say they're prepared for the increased demand, hiring continues to present a challenge.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It's now 12 years that Grand Rapids will host ArtPrize. Thousands are expected to visit the competition.      

Art installations have begun across downtown, and businesses are gearing up to meet the demand that always comes with the crowds of spectators. 

"It's a huge event for us," Bistro Bella Vita Chief Hospitality Officer Tristan Walczewski says. "We've always looked forward to it, especially being downtown."

He says staff there are excited for ArtPrize to kick off. With hundreds of art displays throughout Downtown Grand Rapids comes plenty of hungry customers.

"And especially just kind of reemerging, at least to a different point of the pandemic, we're really looking forward to some sense of normalcy with promotions within the city, some liveliness (and) action downtown, and people coming out in the checkout the city of Grand Rapids," Walczewski says. 

While he says they're ready to take on the extra demand, hiring is still a challenge.

"A lot of people have left the industry over the last couple years for some very valid reasons. And, you know, it's up to us as restaurant people to to convince them to come back for reasons that make sense to them," Walczewski says. 

"We're feeling pretty prepared, we would like maybe a couple more people more," Peppino's Front of House Manager Chloe Edenburn says. 

She says they could use more hosts, and she knows there are restaurants that need even more.

"A lot of the restaurants around here are really short staffed on kitchen people. And like, fortunately, we are very fortunate that we aren't," Edenburn says. "But just kind of be patient with food and like, wait times. Your food will get to you, I promise. It's just, you know, just kind of be patient with us."

All around though, restaurant management agrees that the extra foot traffic will be good for business.

"We always love seeing downtown, you know, become more lively and active," One Twenty Three Tavern Assistant General Manager Curt VanWagoner says. "I just can't wait for another year of having just more people out and about. It's a great thing to see."

ArtPrize begins Sept. 15 and ends Oct. 2. 

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