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​Reservations filled at hotels, restaurants well ahead of Final Exercises

Many businesses say graduation weekend is among busiest times of the year

<p>Many restaurants, including those on the Downtown Mall, are also fully booked for graduation weekend.</p>

Many restaurants, including those on the Downtown Mall, are also fully booked for graduation weekend.

Although Final Exercises for the Class of 2017 have yet to begin, many graduates began planning for graduation weekend with their family almost a year ago. Many local hotels open for reservations very shortly after the previous year’s reservation.

For some Charlottesville area hotels, their open reservations do not last long beyond the previous year’s graduation.

Bill Chapman, general manager of the Oakhurst Inn, said they open reservations for the next year the Monday after graduation and are usually completely booked by the end of that day.

“We have a waiting list before [that Monday] — because people are calling us constantly — we just add them to a list of names and we call them all back on the Monday after graduation,” Chapman said. “There’s a lot of voicemails, missed calls and what not back and forth, but it all goes down in a day.”

While not all hotels may be booked so quickly, many still begin to receive reservations around the same time.

“As soon as [the Omni Hotel] opens for reservations people start booking for [graduation weekend],” Megan Dowling, manager at the Omni Hotel, said. “Maybe January or February is when we’re starting to get really full.”

Some families may have also run into issues with the recent fire in the Excel Inn and Suites, however, the owners of Excel Inn and Suites have helped people who booked their rooms for Final Exercises find accommodations at other hotels.

“Luckily Excel was pretty accommodating with getting us to go over to the Cavalier Inn, so we ended up going to the Cavalier Inn,” fourth-year College student Rachel Boisjolie said. “They had a special discount for people who had been booked with the Excel because they knew it wasn’t under our control.”

There are also several other options for lodging during Final Exercises. Many students are turning to Airbnb, an Internet-based service that allows users to rent out rooms from other users. However, dealing with an individual through Airbnb is much different than dealing with a large hotel, and some students had their accommodations fall through before graduation.

Fourth-year College student Hannah Beaman said she had reservations at an Airbnb until the property’s owner canceled on her and her family.

“The owner got pregnant, so they had to cancel their trip and they were going to be in their house, so we had to move kind of last minute — maybe three months ago — and now we’re 30 minutes out,” Beaman said. “All the close places were definitely taken.”

The University itself also provides students with another option by opening up the Alderman Road dormitories for families, which can be booked through University Conference Services.

An additional consideration for many during graduation is dining. Many restaurants are also fully booked for graduation weekend.

Farrell Vangelopoulos, the owner and manager of the Ivy Inn Restaurant, said the restaurant normally opens up reservations for graduation Jan. 15 each year and are completely booked by the middle of March.

“[Final Exercises] weekend is the busiest of the year — probably twice the amount of business of a normal night,” Vangelopoulos said.

Courtney Jonas, general manager of the Downtown Grille, said the restaurant will be busy throughout the Final Exercises weekend. About 350 people will be going to the Downtown Grille on Saturday night, with a slightly smaller number of 280 and 260 for Friday and Sunday, respectively.

“This is our busiest weekend by far,” Jonas said. “We’ll have some fall weekends especially depending on who’s in town for football, or parents weekend is really big for us, the Virginia FIlm Festival is really big for us, but by far Graduation weekend is the busiest of the year.”