Wilmington getting bump from virtual DNC convention

Del Pez Mexican Gastropub, just down the street from the Chase Center, has seen a boost in sales this week, thanks to the Democratic National Convention in Wilmington. Delaware State News/Tim Mastro

WILMINGTON — The city of Wilmington is hoping to take advantage of its brief moment in the sun thanks to the Democratic National Convention.

It’s definitely not the usual scene of a convention thanks to COVID-19 in terms of the amount of people. But there’s still an influx of visitors and activity on the city’s Riverfront area.

“We’ve been a little busier the last couple days,” said Jason Millar, manger of the Del Pez Mexican Gastropub on Justison Street, just down the block from the Chase Center where Joe Biden accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday night.

“We’ve seen a little pop for lunch and dinner for the most part,” Mr. Millar said. “Nothing that we can’t handle with our current staffing, but it’s certainly filled in some of the gaps in some of the sales.”

The Democratic National Convention was originally scheduled for Milwaukee, but moved to a virtual format with its base in Wilmington due to the COVID-19 virus.

Hotels in the area were full from the Westin Wilmington where media has been housed to two recently constructed hotels — the Hyatt Place and the Homewood Inn and Suites. Back toward downtown, the Hotel du Pont has been the center of attention since last week, with media crews camping out to capture Kamala Harris when she was announced as Mr. Biden’s running mate.

The streets of the Riverfront area Thursday afternoon were a mixture of protesters, supporters, the normal happy hour crowd and just those looking to exercise on the running paths along the Christina River.

Several street corners featured groups of people trying to sell water and apparel to those who drove or passed by.

Aside from a security checkpoint outside the Chase Center, most streets were open to the public on Thursday. It wasn’t until later in the night, closer to Mr. Biden’s speech that certain streets began to close.

With a many restaurants closed or at limited service for a while due to COVID-19, the convention was a welcome, unexpected sight.

Mr. Millar said Del Pez was open for takeout during the state’s shutdown, which helped bring in new customers. The convention helped even more with introducing new people to the restaurant.

“We stayed open as much as we could during the whole thing for takeout and we actually got a lot of new customers,” Mr. Millar said. “We’re just continuing a positive trend right now.”

Gov. John Carney said the coverage of the convention can hopefully lead to increased tourism in the area, calling it a chance for Wilmington and Delaware to show off all it offers.

“I would say you saw great things on the television about the state of Delaware — come visit,” Gov. Carney said. “Come visit and enjoy our beaches, come visit and enjoy our outdoor spaces, come visit and enjoy our historical places. If you’re a worker and you’re looking for a really good place to live, it’s close to major metropolitan-areas and got a great quality of life and a low cost of living. Come and move to Delaware, it’s a great place to live.”