Nolan Katty, 22, gets ready for the Dream Cruise at the Tee-Shirt Palace in Royal Oak. The event expects to generate $56M for local businesses. (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)
Bars, restaurants and motels, up, down and around Woodward Avenue, are bracing for Saturday's Dream Cruise.
With sponsorships up for a second consecutive year and Birmingham back in the game, the crowd — not to mention business — is expected to be better than ever. An improving economy helps, too, organizers say.
"(The Dream Cruise) provides an opportunity for us to make a good impression on people coming here who may have heard all the negatives about plant closings and challenges to the auto industry," said Michael O'Callaghan, executive vice president and COO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. "It's alive and well again and people are passionate about their cars."
The cruise will generate about $56 million for local businesses, he said.
New Cruise sponsors include DTE Energy and Auctions America. They're joining the ranks of veterans like Fifth Third Bank, BP and presenting sponsor Chevrolet, said Marty Pawlusiak, cruise sponsorship director. Sponsorship is up 20 percent from last year.
More than 1 million visitors are expected to descend on Woodward and intersecting streets.
Among those welcoming the rush is Rosie O'Grady's on Nine Mile in Ferndale. The Irish eatery and bar will be open through the Dream Cruise weekend, with patio parties and live bands.
"Cruisers want to hang out on the street and we have the luxury of a big patio," said Jen Hatcher, general manager. "We're expecting a really big turnout."
Hotel occupancy up
Steve Yencich, president and CEO, Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, said the Dream Cruise is "most definitely" one of the biggest events of the year for Metro Detroit hotels.
"Any time you have a major festival, that's good news," he said. "I think this event in particular has a powerful impact on hotel occupancy levels."
Many area hotels are already noticing an uptick in business.
Comfort Inn at Greenfield Village in Dearborn paid $300 to be featured on the Dream Cruise website as a partner hotel. The hotel expects to book the last of its 116 rooms before the weekend.
Ronda Kenaya, manager of Marvin's Garden Inn in Southfield, said the cruise is great for business.
"It has been helpful," she said. "A lot of our guests are return guests and they always refer people."
Some businesses closing
But the cruise isn't good news for every business.
Anita's Kitchen on Woodward in Ferndale will close during the weekend for the second year in a row. Owner Jennifer Wegrzyn said the restaurant tried to stay open in the past, but "suffered tremendously" because regular customers didn't want to fight the crowds and cruisers had no interest in dining in.
Wegrzyn said Anita's will face "significant losses" by closing Saturday and Sunday. "Either way, we lose," she said. "I'm not against the cruise; I'm glad we have something that people come from all over the world for. We're not angry about it, it just doesn't make sense for us to stay open."
A.J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Home in Royal Oak will stop all services Thursday through Saturday; the company's Troy location will pick up services. Cruisers are welcome to use Desmond's Royal Oak parking lots.
"It works out fine," co-owner Paul Connell said.
"It's something we don't fight. It's really exciting to see these beautiful cars."