Winners: bars, taxis and liquor stores

SUPER BOWL BUSINESS

losers: restaurants.

January 23, 1992|By Michael Dresser

Like the Super Bowl itself, business on Super Sunday is a game of winners, losers and mostly spectators.

If you own a tavern with a wide-screen television, this Sunday will be the night the beer and the money flow freely. If you own a restaurant with white tablecloths, you might as well lock yourself in the wine cellar. If you drive a taxi, it's going to be a hectic night.

"It changes the patterns of people's lives," said Richard Morgan, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor. And when that happens, some win and some lose:

MALLS: Most retail businesses in the Eastern time zone will be on the sidelines by the 6:18 p.m. kickoff time Sunday. In California, with a 3:18 p.m. kickoff, it's a different story. But here most of the malls will be closed when the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins start playing.

"You don't really notice that much difference in the shopping day in a regional center," said Christopher Schardt, general manager of Towson Town Center, which closes at 5 p.m. "You do tend to see a lot more women in the mall."

GROCERS: The Redskins may be favored, but the Giants are a mortal lock. Grocers will be able to relax and enjoy the game Sunday knowing the cash registers have been ringing all weekend as party hosts load up on cold cuts, munchies and beverages for the hungry hordes.

"We do a very much increased business before the game in people buying party platters," said Giant Food spokesman Barry Scher.

To allow its employees enjoy the game, Giant will close all of its stores at 6 p.m., four hours early.

Safeway also will close early, at 7 p.m., but other supermarkets will carry on.

LIQUOR STORES: "It's not a Christmas, it's not a Thanksgiving, but it's a definite plus," said Dan Sagel, owner of Joppa Liquors in Towson.

Other liquor distributors agree. At Jason's Liquors in Ellicott City, owner Ken Happel expects sales for the Super Bowl weekend to be up 20 percent to 25 percent from the average January weekend on what he calls the third-biggest drinking day of the year. (Christmas and New Year's Eve are No. 1 and No. 2, he said.)

RESTAURANTS: John Tilghman decided to punt.

Like a number of restaurateurs in the Baltimore area, the owner of the Milton Inn in Sparks decided it wouldn't pay to turn on the heat Sunday. "We took a look at our last couple of years and determined it's not worth it to be open for five to 10 people," he said.

On a good Sunday evening in January, he said, the elegant and expensive restaurant might serve 100 customers. But as of Tuesday, he said, there had been only three calls for reservations.

At Fiori Restaurant in Owings Mills, co-owner Richard Pirone figures that when the going gets tough, the tough stay open. But he's expecting a slow night, with only about 30 percent to 40 percent of the restaurant's typical business for a Sunday.

PIZZAS: "It can be one of our busiest nights of the year," said Bill Kruse, the man in charge of Domino's Pizza's operations in the Middle Atlantic states.

"Our volume will increase by at least 25 percent from an average Sunday," he said, and the increase near military bases and campuses could be 50 percent to 100 percent.

HOTELS: You wouldn't have any trouble getting a room at the Hyatt Regency Sunday, but the second-floor restaurant is likely to be packed. Overall, downtown hotels are Super Bowl losers because convention activity grinds to a halt. The Hyatt is bringing in big televisions and has invited employees of hotels throughout the city to a Super Bowl bash with free hors d'oeuvres and special prizes. Adrian Hughes, assistant food and beverage director at the Hyatt, said he expects to draw more than 100 people and sell about $2,000 worth of drinks, but he doesn't expect that to make up for all the empty rooms.

TAVERNS: Super Bowl Sunday is a wonderful day to own a tavern. And if it's a tavern with a sports theme and a wide-screen television, it's heaven.

At Sneakers in Columbia's Long Reach Village, owner Dennis Imbesi expects customers to start arriving about 3 p.m. to stake out prime seats for his Super Bowl celebration. He's laying in seven to eight bushels of oysters and 120 to 140 pounds of beef for a bull-and-oyster roast. The food will be free, but Mr. Imbesi expects to more than make up for it as a thirsty crowd he estimates at 150 goes through more than 10 kegs of beer on one of Sneakers' biggest days of the year.

"You give a little and you gain a lot," he said.

TAXIS: It's a good night for taxis because of those celebrations. Rather than risk a driving-while-intoxicated charge, many tipplers choose to take a taxi to and from taverns and parties.

"It isn't as good as New Year's Eve," said Tony Miller, who answers the phones at Overlea Cab Co., "but it probably will rank with the top four days of the year."

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