Saturday afternoons in Berkeley are anything but slow on gamedays, especially for local businesses.
Since the opening of the newly renovated Memorial Stadium earlier this fall, the masses of fans occupying the stands during the game and subsequently flooding the surrounding streets have been a boon to local eateries and shops.
Several businesses around the city have benefited from the influx of people, said Dave Fogarty, the city’s economic development project coordinator.
Executive Director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District Roland Peterson said Southside’s Hotel Durant is completely booked on gamedays, and surrounding hotels have had to make adjustments to accommodate all the people that come in.
Berkeley restaurants have also been positively affected by the increased number of people who come into the city on gamedays, especially compared to last year, when many establishments lost the fan base due to the move of home games to AT&T Park in San Francisco.
“Every year, we have followers who come here to watch the games, and they come from all over the country,” said Izat Eliyan, the manager of La Val’s Pizza and La Burrita, both located on Hearst and Euclid avenues. “We know them by face, and they are always very excited to come back. Last year, we missed them, so seeing them again this year, we did see a rise in sales.”
Alex Popov, the owner of Pappy’s Grill & Sports Bar, located on Telegraph Avenue, said the new restaurant has always attracted a lot of people but is busiest on gamedays.
“We’re busy all throughout the day, because even though the games don’t start until the afternoon, we have people coming in the morning to watch games that are happening on the East Coast, and we also have people staying in the evening after the games finish,” said Popov.
While many businesses are thriving due to the increased foot traffic in Berkeley on gamedays, some businesses have not seen much of an improvement, and others have even been negatively impacted due to parking congestion in the city.
Eliyan said that though La Val’s Pizza and La Burrita are both very busy on gamedays, business has not improved as much as was expected.
“We thought that with the new stadium, business would be better,” Eliyan said. “But it’s just like any normal gameday before the stadium was built.”
Wilson Wong, manager of Kip’s Bar on Durant Avenue, agreed with Eliyan’s sentiments.
“(The fans) aren’t coming out as much as they used to, compared to old gamedays,” Wong said. “I’m not sure — maybe football culture is not as big, or maybe not as many people are into football anymore.”
Moreover, some establishments have suffered as a result of the influx of people. Parking in the area becomes congested as a consequence, which forces event-goers to drive all over the city to find parking.
“Parking fines go up in the area on gamedays, and we aggressively enforce parking laws,” said city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross. “It’s critically important that we keep the streets open for residents and for emergency access during and after games.”
Eliyan said that the traffic problems affect the delivery business of La Val’s, and they have to tell customers to wait at least an hour to get their orders.
Doris Moskowitz, manager of Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue, also said traffic problems negatively impact the store on gamedays.
“It’s like ‘Catch-22,’” Moskowitz said. “It’s really sad that the football players weren’t here last year, and we are so glad to have them back and to see so many people come to Berkeley to watch the games. But because of parking issues, it’s harder for our customers to get here, and no one is going to carry books through campus. So our business suffers.”