F1: Montreal hotels fully booked, bars raring to go for expected record-high Grand Prix

If you go down to Peel St., you'll see some changes that may feel like a blast from the past.

The street's being closed off, extra tables set up -- it's the first time since 2019 that the Grand Prix is coming to town, and those in the local tourism industry couldn't be happier.

"It's two years in the making," said Ziggy Eichenbaum of Ziggy's Pub.

"Grand Prix, for us, is what launches the season of summer months and really opens up the valves of tourism back in Montreal," said Glenn Castanheira of the downtown business development group.

And not only are merchants happy to be back, but they expect tourists to be, too. Predictions are that this weekend will see very high numbers, even more than usual.

"We expect a record in foot traffic, a lot of visitors from around the world haven’t seen the North American Grand Prix in over two years. But also a lot of people who haven’t travelled yet," said Castanheira.

Signs point that way so far. Most hotels are fully booked, said Jean-Sebastien Boudreault of the Greater Montreal Hotel Association. 

He was so curious to see how things were going, he called a few hotels himself on Tuesday morning to see if they had rooms left.

"Even if you’re ready to pay... everybody is 100 per cent occupancy rate," he said.

For them, a single weekend may be a chance to start making up for two years of lost income.

"Some months we had like a five-per-cent occupancy rate for the month," said Boudreault.

Bars downtown agree with that sentiment -- this weekend is their shot to get back in business. Some Grand Prix regulars have already shown up, said Eichenbaum, like the car mechanics. Now they're waiting for the bigger surge.

"It gets very, very busy," said Eichenbaum.

"We got the street closed again. We got a stage coming up on Thursday, Friday, Saturday. You get about 10,000 to 15,000 people on the street every day."