One popular hotel option for Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs fans in years past isn't available for this year's game.
The Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront is still closed because of flooding from Hurricane Irma.
The Hyatt Regency has more than 900 guest rooms. Now those guests are finding rooms in other parts of Northeast Florida, potentially taking their business away from downtown Jacksonville.
Element Bistro is one of many downtown shops expecting business to increase when Florida and Georgia fans come to town.
“Always, when it comes to Florida-Georgia, we can definitely expect an earlier crowd, we see a lot more foot traffic,” Jon Mroz, the owner of Element Bistro & Myth Nightclub, said.
But some of that traffic could now be staying in other parts of the county.
Hurricane Irma and historic flooding around the Hyatt Regency have left the hotel closed for repairs, meaning that thousands of guests who would normally fill it will be looking for new places to stay.
“We’re probably helping St. Augustine and helping Amelia Island and maybe Sea Island more than we’re helping Duval County. Clay County will certainly benefit from the Hyatt being closed,” Rick Catlett, president and CEO of Gator Bowl Sports, said.
A quick search online shows 95 percent of hotels in the Jacksonville area are booked up. We also called several hotels in St. Augustine and they’re booked too.
The St. Johns County Visitors and Convention Bureau said it is sending out last-minute emails to hotels, checking their availability and ability to handle a final rush of customers.
Back in Jacksonville, the final preps are underway for the big game. It's a weekend downtown businesses hope will still be a success even though hundreds of nearby rooms will be empty.
“That hurts a little bit, but at the same time there’ll be enough business, enough traffic downtown,” Mroz said.
Action News Jax reached out to The Jacksonville Landing for comment on the weekend and Hyatt Regency being closed. We received the following statement:
“The Jacksonville Landing is excited to be home to great entertainment during the Florida vs. Georgia weekend and we welcome all University of Florida and University of Georgia fans. This year, The Landing has gone country and will feature local country bands all weekend long in the courtyard. With the anticipation of thousands joining us for the celebration, we will be gating and charging $10 to assist with crowd control. Due to the special event and volume of this event, The Landing will restrict certain items that can be brought on property. Visit JacksonvilleLanding.com for a list of those. Live music will start on Friday at noon with Southern Rukus and carry on throughout the evening. Saturday live music will start at 11 a.m. and fans can watch the game on the jumbotron in the courtyard followed by local country band favorite, Lonely Highway.
"The Hyatt Regency are great partners and neighbors to us and it breaks our heart they will be closed during this high trafficked weekend. It’s a tough time to be down but we are hopeful that the visitors to Jacksonville have spread throughout our city and are able to enjoy other areas of our city.”
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