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Downtown restaurants profit off SunFest crowds

'It's the first SunFest since COVID, so we're pretty excited,' bartender says
Posted at 11:52 PM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-29 08:52:08-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Sunfest 2022 kicked off Thursday in downtown West Palm Beach.

"It's the first SunFest since COVID, so we're pretty excited," said Paige Dorsten, a bartender and shift manager at 123 Datura.

The music festival is expected to bring in more than 175,000 people to town and businesses are expecting big crowds.

"I'm waiting to see our line all out to the fence over here to go get tacos, because it's honestly one of the best on Clematis (Street)," Jennifer Gaudreau, a line cook for Bodega Taqueria y Tequila, said.

The restaurant is located right outside the main entrance of SunFesst and has only been open for three months.

"The service industry has actually improved a lot from last year," she said. "I've seen a lot more people comfortable coming out, coming out at nighttime, having a good time and forgetting all the craziness of the last two years."

The taco-tequila lounge is counting on the exposure from SunFest to put their Fort Lauderdale-Miami-based business on the map in West Palm Beach.

"We know a lot of times people are gonna want to come out and grab something quick so they can get back to the show, so we have our specials. Our food gets out within minutes, so we're prepared," said Sasha Dominguez, a food and beverage manager for Bodega Taqueria y Tequila. "We're trying to see how things work and we're expecting it to be multiple rushes throughout the day. We are prepared. We have lots of food and lots of alcohol."

For other businesses, like 123 Datura, which has been around for five years, SunFest weekends mean triple the numbers in sales.

"Yeah, it's been two years since we've seen these crowds, man," said Tyler Vanacore, the general manager. "I'm excited. I think everyone's excited. I'm hoping for a big weekend. It should be a crazy party like every day."

The bar said they're all-hands-on-deck to welcome SunFest crowds before, during and after the show.

"Since we're right at the gate of SunFest as well, they're going to stop by here," Dorsten said. "Instead of having a $15 beer, they can get a $6 beer and they can get to know the staff and the atmosphere that we have."

He said Datura 123 survived the pandemic thanks to the community, and now they're ready to celebrate together for SunFest's return.

"You know, just seeing everyone having fun just all day long, like I said, from as soon as we open the doors until we close them, it's a good feeling seeing all those people," he said.

Many restaurants also have extended hours for SunFest.