Mixed reactions to The Open have left some traders wondering why they bothered while others maintain the championship is a great showcase for Sandwich for future tourism.
As 32,000 people were expected to descend upon the town, road and parking restrictions have been blamed for its streets being “dead” through the day.
It ‘scared locals away’ for the first part of last week according to most business owners we spoke to and the town mayor. And because of The Open’s no-readmission policy spectators could not wander into town and had to make the most of onsite hospitality.
But one business owner that relies on getting deliveries to her customers said the closed roads didn’t affect her at all.
Val Gould, a silversmith and picture framer of Harnet Street, blasted: “It’s pretty much the worst thing to happen to sandwich each time it comes.
“As far as the local businesses and residents are concerned it doesn’t help the town at all. People don’t come in because they think they can’t get in or get out.
“I had a delivery from one of my suppliers and they wouldn’t let him come in. He had to access the town through Woodnesborough Road. “
Megan Boulton of Goats That Dance in King Street agree that the roads and parking situation put customers off.
As a regular 9-5 trader she paid for extra stock, doubled her staff and opened later expecting a rush of custom.
But she, like others, found daytimes were “just like any quiet day in Sandwich”.
She said: “Before The Open started, our regulars pretty much said ‘We will see you next week.’
“Once they realised the town wasn’t closed they came back.”
The 149th Open was organised by the R&A with partners Dover District Council (DDC).
DDC publicised in advance what road closures were in place and where visitors to Sandwich town centre could park.
Peter and Lorraine Ayling of Tan Bueno in New Street said there was no boost to trade for them, having taken the same as usual.
Mr Ayling said: “Today there are people walking around. Last Monday it was dead.
We had no tables on Wednesday lunchtime, a table of two on Thursday and a table of two on Friday. We normally do about 6-7.
“It was busier at nights but then there were lots of last minute cancellations where they were full from what they’d eaten at The Open.
“What we made at night we lost at lunch time.
“I hear people were getting off the train and being ushered straight to the golf course, not being given an explanation so they could come back and explore.
“There was so much hospitality at he golf there was no reason for them to go anywhere else.”
But road diversions and a lack of customers through the door didn’t affect Carina Van Der Plas and Margaret Thomas of The Flower Basket.
“At least 50% of people who attended The Open last time returned to Sandwich within two years. The Open is a good showcase for the town. The benefit is subliminal…”
Ms Van Der Plas who owns the florists said: “It’s been brilliant for Sandwich, absolutely fantastic. Trade at the King Street business is usually split between footfall and phone/internet trade, and where “the locals stayed away” others just phoned up or clicked their purchases through online.
She added: “Some people have complained about the roads and parking but considering we’re a delivery service, we’ve been able to get about. We’ve gone down to the bay and had no problems really.
“And where parking restrictions were set up it made it easier to get about. Enforcement officers were ‘well on it’ so there hasn’t been so much illegal parking.”
The mayor Cllr Paul Graeme acknowledged the traffic and parking issues and the quietness in the day but he hailed the “tremendous”long-term benefits which are subliminal at this stage.
He said: “There were a few traffic problems but none that you could legislate for.
“Generally speaking I think it went very well and it certainly is a tremendous benefit to the town.
“At least 50% of people who attended The Open last time returned to Sandwich within two years. The Open is a good showcase for the town. The benefit is subliminal.”
After welcoming visitors at the train station with town sergeant Kevin Cook hailing Oyez Oyez, the mayor added: “People get what Sandwich is about and then they come back and see what we’ve got to offer.”
A spokesman from Dover District Council said: “The Open is the biggest sporting event regularly hosted in Kent, and we worked hard with partners to engage with local businesses, and to keep the town open and accessible.
“The Open is the perfect showcase for the district and county on an international stage, and provides a wealth of opportunities for the visitor economy and hospitality businesses, before, during, and after the event.
“DDC worked with The R&A and partners to ensure that people could easily access Sandwich town centre during The Open.
“DDC car parks were open and we ensured that spectators did not take up these spaces by introducing a maximum four hour stay.
“We worked with Sandwich Town Council and the local Chamber to help local businesses make the most of the opportunity of having one of the world’s greatest sporting events taking place close to the town, and to provide a warm welcome to Sandwich.
An R&A spokesman said: “The Open’s return to Royal St George’s has been a real success and we are pleased to have held a safe and secure Championship that was enjoyed by the tens of thousands of fans who attended.
“We are extremely grateful to the local agencies and the communities in Kent for their support in staging the Championship.
“The Open is a showcase not only for Royal St George’s but for Sandwich, Kent and the Southeast of England as a whole. The long-lasting image it creates in the minds of the millions of fans around the world who watched on television will inspire many of them to visit the region in the years to come.”