A local Montreal Jazz Festival vendor carves mangoes into flowers at Le Kiosque de Mangue en fleur before a long line of patrons. The mango kiosk is just one of many businesses that participate in the festival each year. (Shelly Runyon photo)
MONTREAL — “Last month, we did not so good, but when the festival comes it gets better,” said Mehdi Seboweh, 23, who works at Ultra convenience store on Avenue du Parc and knows first hand about the economic impact of one of the world’s most renown jazz festivals.
“The boss is happy now,” she said. “He’s calling every day asking how much we made.”
No kidding. Seboweh’s boss even extended hours during the festival to cover the spurt of new business.
The Ultra convenience store is only one block away from the festival and passersby are drawn to the “25 hour” sign hanging from the windows. Seboweh admits it’s a ploy to attract tourists. “They take pictures … they love it,” he said.
And that’s exactly the impact that festival organizers want. Each year the Canadian government subsidizes 16 percent of the festival budget, approximately $4.5 million Canadian, and the festival gives back $20 million Canadian ($20.7 million U.S.) in tax revenue.
In 2010, the festival attracted more than 2 million attendees and created 1,300 jobs for the 11-day event. The festival organizers calculate that the total community impact is greater than about $96 million Canadian.
Walking between stages each day, it is easy to see the economic multiplier effect. As one concert ends and a new one starts up, thousands of people swarm through the Place des Festivals, the five city blocks that are guarded from traffic.
Lines form everywhere. Not even sidewalk hot dog carts and coffee stands are immune. The the wait outside restaurants on Boulevard de Maisonneuve, the southern boundary of the event, can be more than an hour.
This year, the crowds lessened a bit down Maisonneuve due to a major construction project that tore up most of the street inside the Place des Festivals.
Part of the turnout is attributed to the calendar. Locals explained that the event runs between two major holiday weekends. St. Jean Baptiste Day, which most call “24 June,” was the day before the festival opened this year and Canada Day was on July 1.
Lon Benattar, 29, a bartender at the McKibbin’s Irish Pub in a local district of Montreal, just three blocks from the festival stages, said that the event doesn’t really impact his business before midnight, but he sees a direct late-night impact to business.
“We are busy from midnight to 3 a.m.,” he said. Benattar added that those hours are the busiest the pub has during the entire holiday period. “When the festival lets out, you can see the crowds pushing up the street.”
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