Cleveland small businesses hope to cash in on Gay Games

This rainbow stickers promotes The Grovewood Bar and Tavern as a "preferred vendor" for customers in town for the Gay Games 9. It's just one strategy small businesses will use to capture a portion of the $40 million the event will bring to the Cleveland area.

If you’re a restaurant server, it makes sense to be polite and greet a customer with “Ma’am” or “Sir.” But what do you do when a gender mistake turns that courtesy into a slight?  

Server Anna Short would apologize, ask whether she made a mistake, and let the customer take it from there.

“Let them come in and say, ‘I would prefer if you use this term'," she says.

Short works at the Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar on Cleveland’s east side. The owners of this cozy eatery anticipate busy nights and full tables when Gay Games 9 arrive on Saturday.

About 30,000 visitors from all over the world are expected during the week-long event. Small businesses like the Grovewood prepared by attending one of several cultural competency workshops to learn the subtleties of serving LGBT patrons. After demonstrating its cultural competency, the tavern gets a window sticker, and inclusion on Gay Games promotional materials.

The goal is to generate buzz and get visitors to spots that aren’t close to their hotels. But Cleveland State University economist Candi Clouse says buzz is not enough. Far-flung establishments also need proximity to a well-known landmark.

“It’s a very reasonable expectation that people will venture from the center of the activity to visit a certain neighborhood because they’re looking for something specific, like an art district or a music district,” Clouse says.  

The Grovewood is ten miles from downtown Cleveland, which is the heart of the Gay Games. But at least the tavern is close to one of the city’s top entertainment districts, the Waterloo neighborhood. Owner Beth Davis-Noragon says that combination has brought customers in the past, and predicts her tavern to be extremely busy. After all, Gay Games visitors are expected to bring $40 million to the area this coming week. 

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