Northeast Ohio businesses prepare to accommodate RNC crowds

Patrick Shade

With Cleveland hosting the Republican National Convention for the first time in 80 years, the impact will not be limited to just Cuyahoga County. 

In Portage County, hotels are running out of room while some bars will have a pushed back last call.

The Kent State University Hotel and Convention Center is sold out onTuesday and Wednesday.

Director of Sales Teresa Kirkland began planning for the convention the moment it was announced that Cleveland was hosting, calling Republicans based locally and in Washington D.C.

At least one group involved with the RNC—that Kirkland declined to identify due to confidentiality reasons—is staying at the hotel, with the group buying a significant chunk of the hotel’s rooms.

“(The group alone) has booked over 825 rooms in the month of July,” Kirkland said.

In downtown Kent, Panini’s and 157 Lounge will be open until 4 a.m. from Sunday to Thursday—90 minutes longer than state liquor permits allow.

Panini’s manager Shiana Brazelton said the restaurant hasn’t had any major challenges in preparing for the late night hours.

“We made a concrete plan when we got the approval (from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control),” Brazelton said.

The City of Streetsboro is getting ready for increased business as well, with at least two of the city’s hotels sold out Sunday through Thursday.

At Chuggers Bar and Grille, waitress Erica Reich said she expects some guests in town for the RNC to come in during the late night hours.

While the RNC crowd is not expected to top the masses that swarmed Cleveland during the NBA Championship parade, Reich expects the restaurant to gain a few new patrons.

The increased traffic to Northeast Ohio should translate to more revenue for local businesses. Kirkland said the hotel will encourage guests to explore all Kent has to offer.

“We’re certainly promoting the whole Kent area as far as where to eat and shop and any other services they may need,” Kirkland said.