Apr 24, 2024 - News

Downtown Detroit businesses brace for NFL Draft crowds

An image of a Detroit Lions player is painted on a window facing Woodward Avenue at Besa restaurant.

Local artists Munera Kaakouch (painting) and Elton Monroy Duran celebrate the Detroit Lions' Mexican American star Malcolm Rodriguez with a mural of the linebacker on the side of Besa. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Griswold Street's Dime Store, a popular brunch spot that gets packed weekly, expects an even busier scene this weekend.

The big picture: Officials expect 300,000 visitors downtown to have a massive economic impact. The arrival of the NFL Draft also forces downtown business owners and their employees to navigate road closures to get to their jobs.

State of play: The draft footprint covers 2 million square feet of downtown, stretching from Hart Plaza past Campus Martius. Businesses in surrounding areas like Eastern Market, Corktown and Cass Corridor are also bracing for more customers. Near Midtown, Temple Bar, Detroit Shipping Co., 8 Degrees Plato and Rocco's Deli tell Axios they could see increased business.

  • Rocco's on Cass Avenue is doing a promotion with its local coffee supplier on Saturday from 10am-2pm, but will remain closed on Sunday as usual, manager Kyle Mrkva tells Axios.
  • "Event traffic doesn't affect us too much here, so we might survive but we're ready for whatever. Your guess is as good as mine," Mrkva says.

What they're saying: "I kind of compare these road closures to the Free Press Marathon, where we don't have any roads open outside of our restaurant but it's still our busiest day of the year," Dime Store manager Manager Nicole Davis tells Axios. "It's going to be fun."

  • The restaurant, across from the draft footprint on a strip of Griswold that's still open to the public, is typically closed on Wednesdays. But it will be open this Wednesday to accommodate early-arriving draft attendees.

Yes, but: Some businesses aren't as lucky. Getting to Shake Shack, Roasting Plant or the new Chipotle from the other side of Campus Martius means walking down Griswold to Larned and back up Woodward.

  • Upon realizing a gate was blocking their path, workers and residents groaned after being turned around up Woodward near Campus Martius on Tuesday afternoon.
  • The road closures and traffic will also affect downtown employees' commutes, like Angelica Davis, an employee at Throwbacks Home on Griswold and Grand River. She says she'll have to get to work three hours early to find street parking near her store on Friday morning.

The vibe: About a mile away up Cass Avenue, inventory has increased at Temple Bar "because we don't want to run out of everything," owner George Boukas tells Axios. The longtime bar owner says his employees are "excited and nervous, but we're going to be ready."

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