LIVERMORE -- Traffic near the Paragon Outlets mall remained heavy Monday, after a four-day opening weekend that broke sales records and drew hundreds of thousands of shoppers, mall officials said.
Preliminary numbers based on car counts indicated the mall attracted 350,000 visitors between Thursday and Sunday, said Dave Ackerman, Paragon's assistant general manager. Several merchants also broke opening-day sales records, he said.
"It exceeded our expectations," Ackerman said. "We were overwhelmed by the wonderful response. We knew people were ready in this market, and we were delighted by the turnout."
To handle the constant influx of vehicles, mall officials were forced to open two auxiliary parking lots, which remained in use and full Monday. Ackerman said mall security, police from Livermore and Pleasanton, and the California Highway Patrol "did the best they could" to keep everything flowing.
"We got people moving, and it went as smoothly as it could've gone given the numbers," he said.
With unconfirmed reports of 100,000 cars entering the parking lots during the weekend, Livermore police spokesman Dave Blake called the situation "chaotic," but consistent with estimates discussed in meetings with mall officials. Blake reported traffic had lessened, but remained heavy Monday, the last day planned for increased traffic enforcement.
Blake said police will have contingency plans in place for busy shopping days, such as Black Friday.
"As things go back to normal, the traffic problems should die down," Blake said. "We'll take the future on a case-by-case basis."
While some are hailing the mall's opening as an economic boom, the traffic snarls presented a mixed bag for local merchants. At the adjacent Tri-Valley Golf Center, business came to a near standstill over the weekend.
Employee Mark Garcia said staff had hoped for a trickle-down effect from mall shoppers, but instead, business dropped significantly, to about one-third that of the average weekend.
Several would-be customers reported being stalled in traffic for up to 45 minutes and changed their minds about coming in for lessons, Garcia said. Others struggled to get into the facility.
"The problem was the cops were directing traffic toward the mall and away from the driving range," Garcia said. "Customers had to yell at them to move the cones."
Garcia said he anticipates business will settle down for the driving range after the new year.
"Hopefully by then, people will have gotten over the urge to check it out," Garcia said. "After the newness wears off, I'm pretty sure it will go back to normal."
At the nearby Beeb's Sports Bar & Grill, a popular restaurant at the Las Positas Golf Course, weekend business was good, but getting staff to work on time was a challenge, said owner Jeanne Bieber.
"Sometimes it took them 45 minutes to get here," she said. "We were calling them and telling them to leave 30 minutes earlier than usual."
Ackerman said he doesn't expect the "huge volume" of shoppers the mall has experienced thus far to continue for the remainder of the week but that visitor counts would likely remain strong throughout the holiday shopping season.
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184 or follow him at twitter.com/@jet_bang.