COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Restaurants and bars near the Columbus Convention Center said this weekend is by far the busiest of the year because The Arnold Sports Festival is bringing hundreds of thousands of people to town.
With every refuel at a local restaurant, those people are also fueling the city’s economy.
Restaurant workers in the Short North said sales have already doubled, if not more, since the start of the event on Thursday, saying its good to have this essential weekend back for the first time since 2019.
Ian Boyland, the assistant general manager at Barley’s Brewing Company on High Street said it has been in business for every Arnold in history.
Boyland said the restaurant works its schedule around this weekend because they know just how huge it is for its business, with all staff members ready to go, some even working doubles to keep up.
Barley’s has even created a special menu curated specifically to the athletes’ needs.
After a few slow years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a huge event like The Arnold is exactly what all the businesses and employees need, and as of Saturday, they are on track with the numbers they saw in 2019, if not better.
“I mean, we are right there,” Boyland said. “It’s a little surprising, but in a good way. We’ve doubled all of our ordering; we have to have our trash picked up extra times. Everything is going just like it was in ‘17, ‘18, ’19, which is definitely putting a smile on everybody’s face.”
Next door to Barley’s is Agave and Rye, experiencing its first Arnold festival.
“It’s been great,” said Carlos Melendez, assistant general manager for Agave and Rye. “We prepared a month ahead, so starting in February.”
Agave and Rye’s sales for the weekend have doubled, Melendez said.
“Today being Saturday has been one of the busiest days,” he said. “We’ve had a relly good dinner rush. Everyone has been super sweet.”
Also going on Saturday night is the Columbus Crew’s home opener at Lower.com Field and a Carrie Underwood concert at Nationwide Arena. Businesses downtown are hoping those events, in addition to The Arnold, break business records.
Experience Columbus said most hotels in the city are also booked up for this weekend.
The Arnold Classic will wrap up Sunday at the convention center.