Before Minneapolis hosted Super Bowl LII at the downtown U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4, the projections of bars and restaurants in the surrounding area ranged from confidence in a 100-percent spike in sales to skepticism that the influx of football fans would have any effect on business.
So what were the actual results?
“We were slower than normal in the beginning of the week and then much busier Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” says Josh Thoma, owner of Smack Shack, adding that Saturday, Feb. 3, the day before the game, was a record day for the restaurant that also catered a number of off-premise events during the 10-day celebration period.
“We were committed to staying open all week and didn’t close for private events. We wanted our neighbors and regulars to know we were open for business,” he says.
But other local restaurants didn’t seem to share in the fortune.
John Ng, owner of Zen Box Izakaya, said the entire 10 days was a disappointment.
“Our plan was to create a limited food and bar menu. As the week approached with the bone-chilling weather, we decided to keep the full food menu and created a smaller bar menu for that 10 days,” he says. “Unfortunately, because of the road closures in our area [due to event security], lots of businesses were encouraging their employees to work at home. We saw an immediate impact of approximately 50 to 60 percent drop in guests for the lunch crowd during that whole week.”
Ng said the city failed to notify him about the street parking shutdown during the 10 days of Super Bowl activities. Since much of the restaurant’s available parking is on-street, he said the impact on business for him and surrounding shops and restaurant was immediate and enormous.
Attendance and crowd estimates vary widely, from tens of thousands of people to more than 1 million, but many local bars and restaurants not hosting private events did not share in the wealth of visitors.
“It turned out to be a big flop for us,” says Scott Krebsbach, general manager at the Town Hall Brewery. “I feel like most of the events were on the other side of the stadium and into the heart of downtown. I think we were just in the wrong direction of the action. The days leading up to the game we were down over 50 percent in sales from a normal week.”
Krebsbach says the hotel next to their restaurant and brewery was fully rented out by a national beer company who provided free beer and food to more than 400 visitors, only about a dozen of whom visited the local Town Hall Brewery just steps away.
However, Krebsbach says, “The day of the game was great! We positioned ourselves as a [Philadelphia] Eagles bar and had a watch party set up for fans who could not get to the game. We connected with a Philly sports radio talk show host and his show was there with a few news networks.”
“Continue doing business as usual and serve your community while welcoming visitors.” -Josh Thoma, owner of Smack Shack
He says he’s confident some people made money on the event, but overall for his business, it was not worth the hassle. “I’m glad it may never happen here again,” he says.
Still, those who found success were quick to help others who may find themselves in host cities for the Super Bowl, World Series, March Madness or other sporting event.
Smack Shack’s Thoma offered this tip for bars and restaurants in other cities where large national events are being hosted: “Continue doing business as usual and serve your community while welcoming visitors,” he says. “The big buyouts are few and not worth disappointing neighbors and regulars.”