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LaughFest venues hope in-person event will bring boost to business

Tourism experts expect footprint to expand beyond just venues
Local festival offering discounted laughs Friday
Posted at 6:26 AM, Mar 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 09:02:14-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The sounds of a busy bar will soon be replaced with laughter at Creston Brewery in the Creston neighborhood.

The brewery is one of several locations around West Michigan hosting comedians for this year’s Gilda's Laughfest.

“It’s a huge PR moment for us,” Saugatuck Brewing Food and Beverage Director, Michael Biddick said.

The event is welcomed exposure for Biddick as the bar and event space just reopened in October.

“Some people may not know we’re reopened, and even people who live in the neighborhood may not know we reopened,” Biddick said,

Upstairs, a bright event space that Biddick hopes may entice people attending LaughFest to book for more events.

“It's a cool floor with a great view, so you know hopefully we get some interest out of that,” Biddick said.

The week-long event isn’t just welcomed momentum for venues hosting the event, but potentially for the entire Grand Rapids tourism industry in general.

“We also lost 600 group pieces of business, totaling 260,000 hotel room nights during the pandemic,” Experience Grand Rapids President and CEO Doug Small said.

Less visitors staying in the city has led to less profits for many surrounding bars and restaurants. Small says having a large event like LaughFest in person could make up for some of the losses the city’s hospitality industry is still seeing.

“It's that pent up demand is just going to make them that much more successful,” Small said.

“People are getting out, enjoying the show, enjoying dinner, more so than then probably even, you know, back in 2019.

The event focused on making people smile, now could bring cheer to many struggling business owners around Grand Rapids.

The U.S Travel Association has forecasted that Grand Rapids tourism numbers will get back to pre-pandemic times by 2024. However Small believes that return will come sooner- possibly 2023.