All-Star events boosted sales for some, left others wanting more

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 17, 2014 - 9:08 AM

The fly over during Tuesday night All Star Game at Target Field July 15, 2014 in Minneapolis, MN.

It’s all over but the accounting for restaurants and hotels now that the All-Star entourages and fans have left town and the national sports spotlight has shifted away from Minneapolis.

On Wednesday, as city businesses swept up and counted receipts, they pondered a pivotal question: Was it all they’d hoped for?

It’ll be a while before solid numbers are in, but most businesses were able to offer preliminary assessments.

For Peter Killen, owner of Kieran’s Irish Pub near Target Field and The Local on Nicollet Mall, Tuesday night “was like St. Patrick’s Day; I want another one next year.”

But for Jon Jacklin, general manager at Smack Shack at 603 Washington Av. N., there was some disappointment. “Typically, we’re on a wait, and I had open tables all night,” he said, wondering if worries about traffic and parking might have discouraged diners from visiting the popular seafood spot.

Restaurateurs’ uneven economic assessments were not echoed by hotels, which claimed strong bookings Sunday through Tuesday despite the higher rates they charged.

Location mattered greatly. Downtown hotels and bars close to Target Field seemed generally thrilled with the All-Star boost, while other parts of town reported mixed results.

Baseball tourists started arriving in force on Sunday and generally stayed through the game Tuesday night, even if it meant paying top dollar.

Dan McElroy, president and CEO of Hospitality Minnesota, said downtown rooms were going for about $300 a night, with late-booking fans paying more than double that. Because most All-Star fans booked lodging downtown, the suburbs benefited from spillover business, he said.

“This was not an inexpensive week in Minneapolis,” McElroy said. “So it was good for the whole region.”

At luxury hotels, such as the W and Le Meridien Chambers, one-person rooms went for upwards of $700, general manager Susan Mabry said. The two hotels’ combined 300 rooms were full for the main three nights of All-Star festivities. “It’s been so smooth,” Mabry said. “I want to have MLB week every single day of the year.”

Culinary star Isaac Becker was among those with uneven receipts at his popular restaurants. Bar La Grassa and 112 Eatery, both downtown, were quieter than he expected. But the newer Burch at 1934 Hennepin Av. S., on the edge of Uptown, did a brisk business — even though it’s typically quieter when the Twins are in town. Overall, he said, “the weekend was great, and I like baseball.”

Scott Larson, general manager of the Freehouse, 701 Washington Av. N., stopped short of saying he was disappointed with business, but said he fears that “some guests may have thought they were being encouraged to stay away because traffic and parking would be difficult.”

Peter Botcher, owner of Butcher & the Boar, 1121 Hennepin Av. S., said the popular restaurant continued its hot streak. “We did good numbers [Tuesday] night,” he said. “We’re in a good location.”

The receipts were even better inside Target Field, where Butcher & the Boar sells shots of bourbon and beef tips dripping in sauce. Sales were three to four times as high as they are for regular Twins games. “They even stood in the rain for them,” Botcher said of the juicy tips.

Abbie Snell, events and marketing manager at Hubert’s, inside Target Center and just off Target Plaza, couldn’t have been happier. Visitors seemed to have taken seriously the chalkboard sign outside the bar that read: “No trip to Target Field is complete without a stop at Hubert’s.”

The sports bar usually packs them in before and after games, but All-Star events brought steady crowds all day and even during the events on the field. “We were surprised by how many people came and stayed to watch the games,” she said, adding that Sunday through Tuesday were “the busiest we’ll be all year.”

Snell said she and many others found the baseball tourists likable. “They said so many nice things about Minneapolis,” she said.

Killen, of Kieran’s, reported that “everybody was in a good mood.”

Minneapolis police seemed to agree. Their recap of the event involved no major problems requiring response from the heavily staffed downtown command center, which had 200 cameras trained on spots throughout the city. “We didn’t have officers responding to a lot of calls,” spokesman John Elder said.

Killen said he’s ready for more big events, and he will get them. The Ryder Cup comes to Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska in 2016. And then there’s the Super Bowl in 2018.

“Let’s bring on the next one,” he said.


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