Brian Jones of Chicago buys a warmup jacket from Erica Jaske at Gameday Detroit on Tuesday. Business is booming, especially downtown. (David Coates / The Detroit News)
Detroit – — The Tigers’ devastating loss in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series may have been hard to watch for fans, but business owners around Metro Detroit were secretly smiling.
The 1-1 series tie guarantees a third home game at Comerica Park this week, and that means another night of huge crowds spending big league bucks at local bars, restaurants, hotels and retail stores.
The Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates the direct spending for each game will be from $5 million to $5.5 million. Michael O’Callaghan, executive vice president and COO, said all of that spending supports the employment of downtown waiters, parking lot attendants and the like, keeping Detroit abuzz.
“It tells a great story every time we have a national event,” O’Callaghan said. “We’re very fortunate to have the four sports teams. For every negative, we have lots of great things on our side.”
Many bar and restaurant owners are expecting up to a 25 percent sales bump over a non-playoff week. Some have called in extra help, and others are increasing food stock in anticipation of hungry fans.
“It has a tremendous impact downtown,” said Owen Burke, co-owner of Firebird Tavern, which opened two months ago in Greektown. “It’s electric. I think people just want to feel a part of it.”
Burke said he’s had to double the amount of food he orders for a typical week. He’s expecting a 20 percent bump in sales, and he thinks that could rise even higher if the Tigers advance to the World Series.
Business is also brisk at Buffalo Wild Wings downtown, a few blocks away from the Firebird.
Dave Curtis, managing partner, said the downtown Detroit location, which opened late last year, ranked in the top 25 in sales among all Buffalo Wild Wings locations nationwide as the Tigers played the Oakland Athletics last week.
This week, the company is calling on its entire 110-person staff to handle crowds watching 95 TVs spread among three floors.
“Those games are bringing in a large crowd,” Curtis said. “We’re going to be completely staffed to accommodate it.”
But Tigers fans crave more than wings and beer; more traditional restaurants are seeing an uptick in sales, too.
Roma Cafe, the city’s oldest Italian restaurant near Eastern Market, is expecting large crowds looking for a fine meal before and after games. The restaurant also offers shuttle rides to and from the game for $3.
“We’re excited about it,” said co-owner Janet Sossi Belacoure. “We’re excited for the city, for the team and for our restaurant.”
Joe Vicari, founder and CEO of Andiamo Restaurant Group, which owns its namesake Italian restaurant and Joe Muer Seafood at the Renaissance Center, expects more customers, too.
“It all depends on when the times are,” Vicari said. “If they’re in a hurry to get to a game, we can expedite the food. If they give us an hour, we can feed them. After (night) games, we can serve them a great leisurely dinner as well.”
Even the suburbs are benefiting.
Birmingham’s Townsend Hotel expects a strong financial impact, and a manager at Fanatic U, a sports apparel store in Taylor, said Tigers gear is hot.
Strong sales are expected inside the ballpark, too.
Robert Thormeier, general manager Delaware North Sportservice, the team’s concessionaire, said he’s expecting the crowds — and festive atmosphere — to rival a typical Opening Day.
Preparations to assemble some 2,500 workers began minutes after the Tigers beat the Oakland Athletics to advance to baseball’s semifinal round, he said. In addition to its Comerica Park regulars, the company brought in suite managers from Minnesota, retail help from Texas and chefs from Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland.
“It’s an exciting time,” he said. “I try to remind my staff that, like the players, you work for the postseason. It’s your time to shine.”
Hotels in both the suburbs and city stand to benefit from all the traveling fans, players and media.
The Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Detroit Downtown was 65 percent full as of Tuesday, and Detroit’s Westin Book Cadillac on Washington Boulevard is sold out.
Scott Stinebaugh, the Book Cadillac’s director of sales and marketing, described these weekday games as “a windfall” for the hotel.
“The stars aligned. This is the perfect scenario,” Stinebaughsaid. “It’s great for everybody from the shops to the restaurants to the parking garages. ... The additional revenue is great, but the sense of pride (in the city and in the Tigers) we feel as Metro Detroiters is just as important.”