ATLANTIC CITY — When the Dave Matthews Band Caravan’s traffic patterns were announced in May, Ranjit Dhaliwal was one of the first to protest, fearing the potential closing of Albany Avenue would compromise revenue at his Sunoco gas station.
Tom Foley, director of emergency management for the city, met Dhaliwal’s complaints with the joking suggestion that he sell bottled water to counteract any losses. On Friday, Dhaliwal did just that.
The 56-year-old Egg Harbor Township resident stocked up more than 1,300 bottles with the intent to get more if there was demand as the Caravan began at Bader Field.
Dhaliwal was not the only one Friday trying to do whatever he could to make money during this weekend’s three-day music festival, which prompted local businesses and street-level entrepreneurs to try to make the most of the crowd.
Although the 25,000 people expected Friday were far less than the initial 75,000 per-day estimate, restaurants and others targeted the concertgoers who showed up with outdoor barbecues and beer gardens.
Street vendors scalped tickets, sold T-shirts and offered water, soda and snacks for a dollar or two along Albany Avenue, despite city officials’ decision to prohibit such activities this weekend between the festival grounds and shuttle and public transportation drop-offs.
Even more than two miles from Bader Field, Pistol Pete’s Saloon set up a grilling station before 11 a.m. near the Ramada Inn in West Atlantic City on the Black Horse Pike between Atlantic City and Pistol Pete’s home base in Pleasantville.
The Wonder Bar in Atlantic City did the same thing beside its outdoor bayside bar, one of just a few on Absecon Island and a block from the main concert entrance. West End Grill also set up a barbecue and beer garden, which owner Glenn Fenton said he and his business partner have been planning since the show was announced in February.
West End Grill, formerly Jonathan’s, is an eatery on West End Avenue in Atlantic City’s Chelsea Heights neighborhood that was bought and renovated by Fenton in time to reopen for Memorial Day weekend, he said.
“We were so happy to hear about it, we just hope it’s a success,” said Fenton, 53, of Upper Township.
Businesses with existing vending permits sold drinks and snacks in front of their stores. Some also sold parking spaces for $20, but people followed the city ban on doing so in the residential areas of Chelsea Heights.
Stores along Albany Avenue also sold parking spots in hopes of balancing out the drop in business anticipated from heavy traffic, real or assumed.
Some people are in business just for the weekend to get their piece of the $32.3 million the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority estimated the Caravan will generate citywide.
The permits cost $75, plus $10 for an ID, and last a year.
City officials decided to prohibit sidewalk solicitation on Albany Avenue this weekend, a decision they said they made in the interest of public safety, despite a steady stream of inquiries about setting up shop on the sidewalk during the three-day concert, Director of Licensing and Inspections Anthony Cox said.
Foley said the ban was necessary to keep pedestrian walkways clear between the venue and shuttle drop-offs on the east side of the bridge during the event.
“We’re going to have thousands of people walking over the bridge. It would’ve been a safety hazard,” Foley said.
But that did not deter people.
Kevin Crosby, 45, of Pleasantville, spent his day off from his maintenance job at Atlantic City International Airport selling bottled water outside Bader Field.
“Everyone wants beer, but so far it’s going all right,” he said early in the day. “Probably 1,000 people walked by, and 100 people bought something,” he said Friday afternoon, a couple of hours after gates opened.
Rick Burnside stationed soft pretzels and his cooler full of bottled water not far from Crosby. The Ventnor resident scraps metal to make whatever money he can — something that the tight economic times have made increasingly challenging, he said.
“I’m just trying to make a buck,” he said. “To be honest with you, money is tight right now, and I have to pay my rent.”
For Dhaliwal, the final outcome may not be positive.
A few hours into the concert, Dhaliwal said, his business was at 10 percent of its usual volume. If it remains that way through the weekend, he will lose $5,000 — about what it costs him to operate for a week and a half, he said.
Dhaliwal and a 24-hour laundromat, car wash and other nearby businesses already have vending permits, which means they are allowed to sell stuff outside as long as they stay on their property.
“As you can see, my street is closed, and I have to pay my mortgage,” he said.
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