ATLANTIC CITY — Instead of taking Sunday off as usual, DeMarco’s Market owner Dan Roe spent the afternoon prepping for the Phish concerts starting Friday night a few blocks from his business.
“We’re going to set up a tent outside here, with subs and drinks like we did for Dave Matthews,” Roe said, referring to last year’s three-day festival at Bader Field. “It was very successful. We usually close on Sundays, but we stayed open until 10, 11 p.m., whenever, (instead of) 6:30, 7. We even had a good time out here with the people. If it works out again, it would be nice.”
Phish will take the stage at 7 p.m. Friday for the first of three performances scheduled through Sunday at Bader Field, a few blocks from the business Roe has run for 38 years. The Vermont-based jam band last visited Atlantic City in October 2010, drawing 50,000 fans to the resort for three sold-out shows at Boardwalk Hall.
Roe and others living and working in Atlantic City’s Chelsea Heights neighborhood welcome the crowd expected during the festival, hoping for as good an experience — or a better one — as with the Dave Matthews Band Caravan at Bader, the first time in decades the former municipal airport was host to such an event.
One complaint from concertgoers last year: black dust blowing around during the shows and covering them by the end of each day. That should be minimized,if not eliminated, this summer by fresh grass seed laid three weeks ago by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority’s Special Improvement Division.
The project cost about $7,500, a small fraction of the more than $1 million previously estimated for reseeding the entire 142-acre site, because it was limited to only the 22 acres promoters said they would access and because the SID skipped the installation of a permanent irrigation infrastructure, said SID executive director Don Guardian.
Trailers started arriving a week ago to put the finishing touches on the field for the event.
Those will not include camping accommodations. Although city code prohibits overnight outdoor stays, local officials briefly considered allowing it anyway. But ultimately, they decided against it, said Tom Foley, director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management.
The city will use a strategy nearly identical to the one used to accommodate the Caravan in 2011, Foley said.
As before, extra police, fire and emergency medical personnel will again work on-site and citywide — extra coverage costing promoter Starr Hill $50,000 per day on top of the $30,000 daily rental fee.
One notable change: Atlantic City Expressway Exit 2 will remain open, which officials hope will ensure better traffic flow, Foley said.
Congestion during the Caravan hampered some businesses elsewhere in the city, said Kyle Williams, who owns Scales and Back Bay Ale House in Gardner’s Basin at the opposite end of the city.
“That shut down the town pretty hard, and we were actually a little slower than normal,” Williams said Sunday.
Williams since opened the Vagabond Kitchen and Tap House at West End and Trenton avenues. Under different ownership, the 125-seat, bay-facing establishment did not attract a crowd during the Caravan, despite being one block from Bader Field. Williams hopes for a different outcome.
“We’re not allowed to flier outside the facility,” Williams said. “So … proximity to the location will be the draw.”
Williams said he would open at 10 a.m. Friday, one hour earlier than usual, and feature three beers — Terrapin, Allagash White Ale, Dogfish Head 60 Minute — next weekend in addition to the 14 typically on tap there.
The Vagabond also will boost staff from the usual solitary server to three or four plus a few bartenders and bouncers to ensure all patrons are at least 21 years old, said chef Kevin Kelly.
“We want people to come enjoy some food, enjoy some beer,” Kelly said Sunday. “We hear it’s going to be busy.”
Not all nearby businesses shared those views.
Santori’s Produce set up a tent in its parking lot selling fruit, trail mix and other prepackaged healthy snacks during last summer’s three-day festival. But foot traffic was directed to the opposite side of the street and “nothing really materialized” in the way of extra business, owner Gino Santori said Sunday.
“We're not planning on setting anything up because (of that) … and there was so much more publicity for the DMB concert than the Phish concert,” Santori said. “There was a lot of hype.”
Parking posed a problem for some Chelsea Heights residents, particularly on Trenton Avenue, where entire blocks feature properties without driveways. Danene Albertson said she and her neighbors asked the city government to restrict parking, particularly along Trenton Avenue, during last summer’s concert to no avail, so they didn’t bother this time around.
Instead, the prospect of the inconvenience prompted the 15-year resident to take time off from her job as a dispatcher for the South Jersey Transportation Authority.
“What’s the sense of me leaving? I won’t be able to come back and park, probably, within the whole neighborhood,” Albertson said. “We parked our cars for three days last year and didn’t leave during the event. But the noise wasn’t bad. Other than the extra traffic, it wasn’t any different than a Tuesday evening or regular rush hour here.”
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