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'It’s a big plus for us:' Hal-Con brings in thousands for Halifax businesses, eateries

HALIFAX - Hal-Con may mean costumes, star guests and panels, but the event is also a “big plus” for downtown businesses.

A cosplayer at last year's Hal-Con poses for photos at the World Trade and Convention Centre.

From Friday to Sunday, the World Trade and Convention Centre and Scotiabank Centre host the sixth-annual sci-fi, fantasy and gaming convention expected to bring 7,800 people to Halifax, said spokeswoman Joni Crocker.

“We definitely add to the downtown population considerably,” Crocker said Wednesday.

While about 7,000 attended last year, Crocker said they’re expecting roughly 800 more due to the expansion into the Scotiabank Centre arena for vendors and exhibitors.

Callum Johnson, Strange Adventures owner, said Hal-Con always makes for a busy weekend for them as well as Giant Robot or Monster Comics, since people from out of town like to see what Halifax has to offer.

Having thousands of people coming into the city, some with friends and family who go shopping or dine out during the convention, is like have a couple cruise ships in town, Johnson said.

“It also makes for the most fascinating restaurants,” Johnson said.

“Sometimes you go into Subway or the Foggy Goggle, and there’s a Klingon and a Storm Trooper and some anime character all having a drink together.”

The 2014 convention saw hundreds of hotel rooms booked, Crocker said, as well as more than $250,000 brought in by local restaurants.

Although the Midtown Tavern is usually crowded with sports fans, owner Eric Grant said Hal-Con has been “really good” for business, particularly on the Saturday of the convention.

Grant said when Hal-Con began he wasn’t sure how much business they’d see out of it, but “this has been a nice surprise.”

“The older guys that come here all the time, they kind of look around and shake their head a little bit, but there’s nothing negative about it at all,” Grant said with a laugh.

“It’s a big plus for us … we’re looking forward to it.”

Businesses in general have gone from being surprised to see Hal-Con fans downtown, to social media campaigns targeted at attendees, Crocker said.

The World Tea House often partners with Hal-Con and is making a special Hulk Shot drink, while Scotia Square Mall is keeping their food court open on Sunday “which they’ve never done before,” Crocker said.

“The need is there and people want to spend money,” she said.

Vendors took in over $100,000 last year as well, Crocker said, which includes exhibitors, retailers, and artists.

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