Many local restaurants expect drop in sales from gameday crowd

If hardcore Cal fans were disappointed by the news that Cal football would be moving from Memorial Stadium to AT&T Park for the 2011 season, imagine the dismay of countless Berkeley business owners who would otherwise take advantage of the hoards of hungry spectators flooding the campus and surrounding streets.

With the first game of the year Saturday at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, most restaurants surrounding Memorial Stadium anticipate a drop in sales, with some even adjusting their opening hours or canceling traditional game day events due to the change.

Both Northside restaurants Urbann Turbann and La Burrita are considering changing their Saturday hours due to the expected absence of weekend crowds. Urban Turbann may not even open.

“It’s a disappointment that they’re doing it over there,” said La Burrita owner Izat Eliyan. “We understand with the retrofits and everything, but every year we look forward to home games.”

On Southside, Hotel Durant and the adjacent Henry’s Pub — which have held home game tailgating events in past years — will not be holding any Saturday events beyond the typical public viewing on TVs in Henry’s, but they are not ruling out the possibility of future events if there is public demand. The hotel’s General Manager Will Jones said fans should check out Henry’s website for updates throughout the season.

“We’re expecting it to be insane in 2012 with the new stadium and a powerhouse lineup,” Jones said.

Top Dog will also be playing it by ear — employee Frank Brown said the restaurant will wait to see what gameday turnout is to decide whether or not to have its usual express lane next to their store on Durant Avenue to serve customers. He said the company attempted to get permission to have a stand in AT&T Park, but their request was not approved.

Although fewer students will be attending games this season, at least 3,700 students — compared to the usual 6,500 student season passes typically sold for Memorial Stadium — will still make their way to San Francisco for the games.

So while Berkeley restaurants are bracing for a slowdown, businesses around AT&T Park are anticipating the benefits of having an influx of hungry college sports enthusiasts wandering the streets around the stadium.

“Assuming the games sell out, we expect about a 30 percent increase in business on game days compared to our normal Saturday dinner,” said Jon D’Angelica, owner of Ironside, a restaurant just around the corner from the park.

For those staying in Berkeley on gameday, Bear’s Lair Pub is planning to hold the first of many fall Cal football viewing parties this Saturday. According to Owner Sal Erakat, the pub’s license allows them to utilize the Bear’s Lair Food Court space behind the establishment, which will be filled with flat screen TVs and thirsty Bears fans.

“We want to create a home environment for students and fans to gather and watch the game together,” Erakat said. “We hope to make it the next best thing after going to the actual game.”

Dave Fogarty, the city of Berkeley’s economic development project coordinator, said he believes the lack of spectators brought to Berkeley for home games will have different effects on local business, not all of which will be negative.

“No doubt it will harm the restaurants because they get a lot of business from Cal fans. But at the same time, there won’t be as many visitors swamping parking facilities around town and making it difficult for regular customers to get access to other stores on gamedays,” Fogarty said.

Parking has been a constant frustration in the past on gamedays, when the already sparse parking options available around Memorial Stadium overflow, resulting in excessive illegal parking and massive amounts of traffic.

“It’s a trade-off. Hotels and restaurants will probably suffer, but on the other hand it makes access easier for other businesses,” he said.