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Napa Valley restaurateurs hail return of BottleRock crowds

Napa Valley restaurateurs hail return of BottleRock crowds
Napa Valley restaurateurs hail return of BottleRock crowds 02:11

NAPA (KPIX) -- Restaurateurs participating in the 2022 BottleRock music festival say exposure from the event comes at a critical time for businesses looking to navigate their ongoing recovery from the pandemic.

"I think Napa has rebounded better than you could have imagined," said Eric Keffer, owner of Cole's Chop House. "We had an awakening and we had a moral compass to make decisions for employees who had no other source of income."

Cole's has been in business for 22 years and the fine dining establishment says 2021 was one of their best years but it required them to make major changes to stay open -- like accepting takeout and delivery orders. 

"I think coming out of the last couple of years and the challenges of COVID and, here, the fires, people are really excited to embrace new concepts," said Christopher Kostow with Loveski Deli. "I think we have been very fortunate during the pandemic -- and coming out of it  -- that Napa has remained a destination."

He and his wife launched their business a couple months ago in Napa. It's a new take on deli-style food with a Thai influence. He says BottleRock remains a great way to meet customers. He brought Loveski to this festival in the fall of 2021, ahead of the opening for his restaurant. BottleRock took place over Labor Day weekend last September, delayed because of the pandemic. 

"I mean it definitely has been a struggle but our locals definitely do help us out a lot," said Nicole Baldocchi of MO's Hot Dogs, another Napa restaurant. 

The festival was sold out for the weekend, averaging 40,000 people per day. Most of the attendees are from California and the Bay Area. Organizers say the majority of their guests come from highly-vaccinated counties. 

"We really appreciate the staff here. We really appreciate the people who make this go smoothly," said Lindsey Webster of San Jose. This is her second time at BottleRock.

For those attending the festival for the first time, it was a welcome change from the pandemic years. They were excited to see the event return and hope to make this a new tradition. 

"The weather has been good, the vibes have been nice, everyone's super friendly, no complaints yet," said Liam Finn from Redwood City.

Businesses say the event has grown over the past few years. The number of visitors coming into Napa over this one weekend amounts to almost half the regular population of the city. 

"When you see an event like this attracting 40,000 people a day after a pandemic, that's hard to believe,"  Keffer said.

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