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Special Session Is Nice, But Not Crucial to Annapolis Tourism

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Special Report: Special Session 2007: Budget Crisis

By Bernie Becker
Capital News Service
Friday, Oct. 26, 2007

ANNAPOLIS - The special General Assembly session that begins Monday should provide a boost for Annapolis' tourism industry -- but how much of one remains to be seen.

"You can't predict" how much revenue the special session will bring, said Connie Del Signore, chief executive officer of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau.

The session will certainly help hotels, restaurants "and other ancillary merchants" like drugstores, she said.

"November is one of our slower months," Del Signore added, citing the Thanksgiving holiday and the absence of big events like the boat show.

Legislators get no extra pay for the session, but they can get $123 a day for lodging and $41 for meals.

A special session also means lobbyists and other interested parties often pour into Annapolis restaurants and hotels.

Just how long they will be around is another question. Legislators still are not exactly sure what days they need to be in Annapolis, but Peg Bednarsky at Historic Inns of Annapolis said Friday she is not surprised by that.

With a special session of this magnitude, Bednarsky said, "people get so carried away with rumor, you have no idea what's really going on."

Bednarsky, whose hotels usually house as many as 75 legislators during sessions, said some legislators have reserved a room for part of the first week of the special session and others have indicated they will be staying the entire week.

Many legislators who live closer to Annapolis also commute from home.

"You just have to try and take it one day at a time," Bednarsky said, adding that both lawmakers and hotels will probably know more after Gov. Martin O'Malley addresses the legislature the first night of the session Monday.

That could leave hotels scrambling to find space for legislators. Many hotels and restaurants near the State House expect brisk business to continue through at least the end of October, with a slowdown not occurring until later in the fall.

"We're actually sold out on" the opening day of the session because of unrelated events, said Chara Hutzell, director of government travel at Loews Annapolis Hotel on West Street.

Holly Hepting, manager of Reynolds Tavern on Church Circle, said she expects to host some parties for legislators when they arrive.

"More business is more business," Hepting said. "But we stay pretty busy the entire year."

Still, most merchants say they always welcome new business and are happy to hear a special session called.

While Loews has a wait list for rooms Monday, Hutzell said the hotel will do what it can to accommodate the 50 legislators and lobbyists who usually stay there.

Sean Boylan, a bartender at Galway Bay, said many legislators eat lunch at the Maryland Avenue restaurant.

It will be good "to start seeing some familiar faces soon," he said.

Copyright 2007 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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