photo credit: Victor J. Blue/NYT
They’ll come by bus, by car, by train (hopefully mostly by train). But once they’re here, then what? Will the Barclays crowd shop? Will they eat? And perhaps most importantly — and to the residents of Dean, Bergen, and St. Marks, most nerve-wrackingly — will they drink?
Theoretically, yes. The Post reports that a slew of new bars and restaurants are vying for space in the three square blocks around Barclays, hoping to cash in on post-event revelry. Opponents of the arena have longstanding concerns about drunken arena-goers “lingering” in nearby bars. If there’s one thing developers and protesters can agree on, it’s apparently this: Barclays-goers are totally going to hang out in the surrounding neighborhoods, and Barclays-goers are going to drink. Except are they?
Liz, a bartender at Wolf & Deer, at 5th Ave and St. Marks, says she was hired specifically to help with the expected Barclays crowds. “We’re going to double up bartenders,” she said. But while the bar may be expecting a “parade of people,” Liz herself isn’t convinced. “I’m kind of afraid it’s not going to happen. I mean, I don’t know. I just think people are expecting it to be way bigger than it’s going to be.”
5th and St. Marks is close enough to the stadium to alarm residential neighbors, but Liz isn’t sure it’s close enough for Wolf & Deer to cash in. “I don’t see people wandering,” she said. “They’re just going to go to the first bar that they see. Or stay at the stadium. Isn’t there a bar at the stadium?”
Less than a block away, Matt, the beer curator at Uncle Barry’s, isn’t hugely optimistic, either, though for a different reason: he’s not sure the Nets are good enough to be a long-term draw. “These teams move because they’re not doing well where they are, and generally that has to do with the performance of the team. The Montreal Expos left Montreal because they were a shitty team and they weren’t attracting customers.”
He waxes historical: when the Nationals moved to DC’s Navy Yard — a shady area at the time, all “porno stores and titty bars” — developers jumped on the opportunity to rebrand the area as a high-end business district. “Businesses did not fare terribly well there,” Matt says, because the Nationals weren’t winning. “Nobody went after a certain point.” And the people that did go “were going to hang out at the stadium and then leave.” They weren’t going to places like Uncle Barry’s.
He’s quick to add that the the situation isn’t “necessarily comparable, because there’s a lot of residential area over here.” But after thinking about it “pretty long and hard,” he keeps coming back to what happened in DC. “That is the most compelling argument anyone’s made to me.”
As for business at Uncle Barry’s? “I’m not sure it’s really going to — even though we’re only a block and a half away….I’m welcoming those people, I’m glad to have them in the area,” Matt says, sounding resigned. “Is it going to put me into retirement? No, no it’s not.”
But Adam at Black Sheep Pub isn’t so sure. “All the bars around here are going to make a lot of money,” he said, grinning. “It’s gonna be great for business.” Unlike Liz, he has no question that the Barclays boon will meet expectations. “It looks like they have, during the basketball season, 22 to 25 events a month over there,” he explained, which, in bar terms, means “22 to 25 Friday and Saturday nights every month.”
It’s possible, he acknowledges, that the new crowds will alienate some of the regular neighborhood drinkers. “It’s hard to predict what the flow of the Barclays Center crowds will be, if there’ll be periods of time durning the events where they’re not around…Maybe we’ll see regulars on nights when there’s not events, and on event nights, they’ll stay away or they’ll walk further away from home to go grab a beer.” Not that Adam’s worried about it: “I think it’s gonna be great for business,” he says again.