Del Mar racing crowd brightening business in La Jolla

Business traffic in La Jolla from the Del Mar horseracing crowd got out of the gates quickly for some but not for others on Wednesday’s opening day.

“It’s a big day — the entire race season is very good for business,” said Terry Underwood, general manager of the historic Grande Colonial Hotel at 910 Prospect St.

Underwood said the hotel and its posh Nine-Ten Restaurant didn’t see any falloff in business demand from race visitors this year compared to 2009. But he added there are two other events — Comic Con 2010 at the Convention Center and the Surf Cup Soccer Tournament — this week coinciding with the racetrack’s opening that are drawing big crowds.

“All three of those things put a tremendous demand on the marketplace,” he said.

Signs so far this summer point to business picking up. “It’s better than last year,” Underwood said. “At least, it’s going in the right direction.”

Summer is peak season for Village hotels, but Underwood noted the increase in business is more “a bump than a mountain.”

Crab Catcher at 1298 Prospect St. was another high-end Village eatery that was treated well by the race crowd.

“Last night was a good night: It typically is for us,” said restaurant general manager Jamie Loomis, noting there’s no guarantee race patrons frequenting Del Mar and other North County areas will turn up in La Jolla.

“But people do come into town for the races who stay nearby that do frequent the restaurant,” he added.

In La Jolla Shores, business from the opening of the track in Del Mar was hit and miss.

“It didn’t do much for us this year though it has in the past,” said Tom Spano, general manager of Piatti Ristorante & Bar at 2182 Avenida De La Playa.

“We had a great day actually,” said Barbara Beltaire, owner of Barbarella Restaurant & Bar at 2171 Avenida De La Playa. “We had beautiful people in here with some beautiful hats.”

Barbarella’s core business is local. But Beltaire noted any kind of activity, like the Del Mar racing seaso that brings people into La Jolla is good. “We all benefit from it — especially if they (customers) win.”

Marcello Luna, server at Clay’s La Jolla, a nightclub on the 11th floor of Hotel La Jolla at 7955 La Jolla Shores Drive, said it was just business as usual there Wednesday for the opening of race day, adding the crowd wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.