In Fort Greene, Local Restaurants Unequally Impacted by Barclays Center
By Juliette Dekeyser
Whether it’s a Brooklyn Nets game, a Nine Inch Nails concert or a Justin Bieber show, an event at the Barclays Center means that ten times the regular number of customers stream through the doors of 67 Burger, said Carol Come, the manager of the Lafayette Avenue pub-style restaurant.
“We see the difference especially on the weekend, and when the game season comes on,” Come said. “I have been here for two years. I can tell the difference.”
But while most restaurants in Fort Greene say they are flush with dinnertime crowds, not all spots are raking in extra customers, noting that they want to bring the neighborhood visitors to their restaurant.
“They can come from [the Brooklyn Academy of Music] or from the Barclays Center, we don’t really know,” said Tanya Snidvongs, a manager of National Thai restaurant on Fulton Street.
It is only a five-minute walk from Barclays Center to Fowler Square Plaza and Portland Avenue, where 67 Burger and a dozen mom-and-pop restaurants are located. Except for National Thai restaurant, all said the Barclays Center has brought them more customers.
“Business has picked up,” said Lakesha Williams, a waitress at the Smoke Joint, a BBQ restaurant. “It’s not just local people anymore. People come from other boroughs, other states, because of the concerts.”
Antony Singh, a waiter at Habana Outpost on Fulton Street, said the restaurant is also crowded after events. The Mexican restaurant has a food cart in Barclays Center, which informs people where Habana Outpost is.
Since the inaugural concert to open the arena, by the hip-hop superstar Jay-Z on Sept. 28, 2012, the Barclays Center has hosted 212 cultural and sporting events, and attracted more than 2.1 million people.
“The arena has served as a boost to the borough’s economy,” said Carlo A. Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, whom his colleagues describe as “a Barclays Center fan.” Scissura said neighboring businesses have benefited from the center’s presence.
Rick Eckstein, a professor of sociology at Villanova University and a co-author of “Public Dollars, Private Stadiums,” said the local businesses most impacted by new stadiums are bars and restaurants. But the crowd of new customers can be a mixed blessing, Eckstein said. The down side, he added, is that regular customers feel less welcome.
“They are some new people, but it may displace local people,” he said.
Indeed, Williams said local residents are sometimes discouraged from coming in on game nights, because the cafe is too packed and the sidewalk traffic too dense.
Additionally, the positive effects on local businesses are not evenly distributed around the neighborhood, said Robert Perris, district manager of Brooklyn Community Board 2. Based on his casual observation, he said the biggest impact has been on Fifth Avenue, across Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope.
“People don’t go too far,” Perris said. “One block or two.”
On DeKalb Avenue, three blocks away from Barclays Center, the effect of the venue is irregular. Joe Juliano, the owner of Cammareri Bakery & Cafe said his coffee shop misses the post-show and post-game crowds because it closes before 9 p.m. and doesn’t serve alcohol.
Eckstein said it is difficult to predict when a stadium will have a real positive impact. But if it does, Eckstein said we would see it in the first year because of the excitement about a new stadium. However, when the economic argument doesn’t come out, Eckstein said people who support a particular project find other positive aspects.
“Usually it rejuvenates culturally and socially an area,” he said. “Here, it brings to Brooklyn something full of life, something that the people would be proud of.”
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