For one weekend every September, Pratt Street Ale House is filled with superheroes.
That’s because Baltimore Comic-Con brings more than 40,000 comic book fans to the Baltimore Convention Center, and they’ve got to eat and drink while they’re here.
So area restaurants like Pratt Street Ale House see a significant spike in business, and this year will be no different, said Willa Frazer, an events manager at the restaurant.
“Comic-Con is a fun one, and definitely a big one,” Frazer said.
Since Comic-Con is held over Labor Day weekend this year, the convention will also coincide with Orioles baseball, bringing in a quirky mix of clientele, she said.
“It will be a fun mix,” she said.
In the 16 years since the inaugural Baltimore Comic-Con, the event has grown from one day to a three-day weekend with 300 exhibitors and more than 100 special guests.
Randy Tischler, director of communications for Baltimore Comic-Con, said the event attracts visitors from across the country and beyond. In past years, visitors have come from as far away as Australia.
And that’s quite a boon for local businesses, Tischler said.
“That's a lot of filled hotel rooms, meal and bar tabs, air, rail, and ground transportation, souvenir and attraction sales, and other living expense sales revenue at a minimum that would otherwise likely not be there,” Tischler said.
Comic-Con has a number of discounts set up with Baltimore-area hotels, and convention organizers have also arranged for visitor parking through Parking Panda, Tischler said.
Amy Calvert, senior vice president of convention sales and services for Visit Baltimore, said Comic-Con is one of several fan conventions that draw thousands of people to Baltimore every year.
“Baltimore has been a city that has embraced them,” she said.
Otakon 2016, an annual celebration of anime, was held earlier in August, though this will be the convention’s last year in Baltimore. Bronycon, which draws men who are My Little Pony enthusiasts, is held every summer as well.
“Baltimore is a good destination for groups like this,” Calvert said.
She attributes much of that success to local organizers.
“They’re super passionate and collaborative,” she said. “Kudos to Marc (Nathan, founder of Baltimore Comic-Con) and his team for having this original vision.”
Visit Baltimore’s Show Your Badge discount program offers deals for those who attend events at the convention center, partnering with restaurants, museums, shops and other attractions. The Show Your Badge program has about 70 members, according to Visit Baltimore.