Dogz Bar and Grill is expecting to be at capacity for Tuesday's U.S. vs. Belgium match.
When the Unites States Mens National Team advanced to the knockout stage of the World Cup last week, the stakes were raised dramatically. There will be no advancing by virtue of goal differential. It’s win or go home, and bars and restaurants citywide will be pulling for the red, white and blue to continue their winning ways that has infused plenty of green into their establishments.
Pubs, restaurants and even coffee shops have amended their normal operating hours to accommodate fans clad in their favorite team’s gear looking for a place eat, drink and fly their country’s colors. Futbol fans in the city have responded by filling the local businesses to capacity, especially during games involving the United States or Mexico, creating an influx of revenue that would’ve otherwise stayed in consumer’s wallets and out of the businesses’ bottom lines.
Nationally, cities from coast to coast have reported a windfall in World Cup generated profits. One pub in Kentucky described the added revenues “like an extra month of sales” while bars in Washington D.C. and across the U.S. have reported spikes in sales approaching or surpassing 50 percent. To Americans, it’s a relatively foreign concept that the international sensation of World Cup could be an economic drive in the Sates, but soccer has become big business.
Eric Johnson, co-owner of Legends Sports Bar on Second Street, said that the affect from this year’s tournament is being felt a lot more than the 2010 World Cup, most likely because of the more manageable time difference between California and Brazil, rather than the nine hours between Long Beach and Johannesburg. Johnson said as the tournament has gone on (and the U.S. keeps advancing) the environment at the bar has become as patriotic as it is profitable.
He noted that last Thursday’s match with Germany, which had the first customer lined up at 5:30AM for the 9AM kickoff after Legends bumped opening time from 11AM to 9AM for game days, boosted the bar’s sales by over 30% from an ordinary Thursday. But it goes beyond just a single day’s sales. Getting new people into the bar raises the prospect of repeat business which can benefit a business past the World Cup finale July 13 in Rio di Janeiro.
“Obviously on a Monday, we’re not doing much so when you can fill the restaurant, it makes a huge difference,” Johnson said. “I think beyond just the numbers, something that we look at is seeing new faces and giving them an experience to try our food and experience our service and see what Legends is all about. Most restaurants and a bars are benefitting from that. They’re getting a lot of people in that wouldn’t normally go to your restaurant or bar.”
While Legends easily has the largest viewing screen on the street, it hasn’t stopped other businesses in the area from opening their doors to join in the World Cup fever. Aroma di Roma offers a bar alternative for World Cup viewing, especially for the early morning games, while smaller, non-traditional sports bars are also cashing in on the overflow of World Cup patrons.
Daryoush Zolfghari, a bar manager at Dogz Bar and Grill and supporter of the ousted Chilean and Iranian national teams , acknowledged that without a television in house its hard to compete on the Second Street bar circuit. Sports in general affects sales, but few events have proven to be as profitable as this year’s tournament and everyone wants a piece of the action.
“We’re not an established sports bar and we don’t have a giant projection screen but neither does that sushi place that has three plasmas on the wall either,” Zolfghari said. “But they’ll have sports on, so clearly sports impact selling and marketing for everyone.”
Marketing has been a focal point for every bar, whether it be discounted domestic drafts, breakfast specials, red-white-and-blue shots—a concoction at Dogz made with raspberry vodka, pucker, Sprite and grenadine—or a 128-ounce Modelo beer tower with a soccer ball base, World Cup has translated to big gains for businesses.
Zolfghari said a typical 4-hour Thursday morning shift at the bar translates to approximately $200 dollars in sales per bartender and roughly $500 per server. However, during the U.S. loss to Germany on June 26, that total was somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000 in sales per server.
“We have to order more, we have to add more people on,” Zolfghari said. “At 9AM we have to have two servers, two bartenders and two bar backs on a Tuesday morning at 9AM. We don’t have that until 8 o’clock at night on Friday night.”
Despite soccer’s popularity placing behind the four major sports in the country, World Cup soccer in particular is experiencing a boom in popularity. According to Nielsen, the top two cable television broadcasts for the week of June 16 were games the U.S. played in, including the match versus Portugal that became the most watched soccer game in United States history with over 25 million viewers combined between ESPN and Univision. The nation's match against Germany failed to top those numbers, due in part to the mid-week 9AM kickoff, but still managed to become ESPN’s biggest non-holiday weekday broadcast ever.
The growth of soccer is something that Varouj Shekerdemian can attest to. The operations manager at Shannon’s on Pine applied last year to make the Downtown bar the Long Beach headquarters for the American Outlaws soccer fan club. Since they were approved in October 2013, Shekerdemian has watched membership balloon from about 11 supporters to over 70.
Business has been “phenomenal” according to Shekerdemian, something that’s most likely to rise with the viewing party planned for Pine Avenue during Tuesday’s World Cup matches practically being right outside their doors. The DLBA, which is putting on the event, has already confirmed that another win would mean another viewing party which would mean more momentum for local businesses.
“If the US could qualify for another round that would be amazing,” Shekerdemian said. “That would be like almost winning the World Cup for us.”
The cost of not advancing was outlined by an article published by Reuters last week. England, a country which has perennial high hopes for its national team, is expected to feel a sizeable economic crunch from the Brit's early exit from this year's World Cup. The squad's worst performance in the tournament since 1958 cost the country an estimated 175 million pounds ($297.64M) that would've went to the country's bars, pubs and restaurants according to a report from the Centre for Retail Research (CRR).
Whether they were soccer fans before or find it to be about as entertaining as watching paint dry, many business owners are pulling for the American team to keep their run alive, helping to boost sales in notoriously dead period of the sports calendar. A win for the U.S. is proving that it can also be a win for local businesses.
“Certainly from a business standpoint, there are certain teams that draw and the USA is the biggest draw and that’s been great,”Johnson said of the sales impact at Legends. “We are red-white-and-blue all the way through.”