Business around Brooklyn's new Barclays Center is booming on event nights, and it will only get better when the Islanders hockey team moves there from the Nassau Coliseum in 2015, according to area entrepreneurs.
"It literally looks like a parade coming down the street when events open and close," said Qiana DiBari, co-owner of Va beh', an Italian eatery that opened on Dean Street blocks from the arena a year ago.
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For the Barbra Streisand concerts this month, Convivium Osteria, an established Mediterranean eatery on Fifth Avenue, was booked a month in advance.
Nearby, Melt, a farm-to-table restaurant, experienced a 50 percent increase in traffic on those nights and when Jay-Z headlined there in September. Franny's, a well-known artisanal pizza place a 10-minute walk from the arena, added staff on those nights to accommodate the preconcert crowd.
"There's been a significant jump in business when there are events. They bring in high-rollers willing to spend more," said Michael McCabe, Melt's executive chef.
The eatery now touts itself as located "around the corner from the Barclays Center" on its website, and McCabe said he gave walking directions to event ticketholders arriving at the nearby Long Island Rail Road Atlantic Avenue Terminal. Concertgoers spent an average of $50 per person, about $20 more than usual, said McCabe.
Islanders news welcomed
When the Islanders' plan to move was announced last week, business owners were elated.
"I thought, 'Wow, this is great for business,' " said Francine Stephens, co-owner of Franny's and a native of Great Neck. Though admittedly not a sports fan, she said family and friends from her hometown regularly ask her about the new arena. "Everyone is excited about Barclays," she said.
Michael Pintchik, who owns dozens of buildings between Atlantic Avenue and Grand Army Plaza, was in a meeting with a restaurateur looking to open in one of his spaces across the street from the arena when word spread about the Islanders' move.
"The restaurant owner's face just lit up," said Pintchik.
The Islanders are expected to play at least 41 home games at the arena each year, meaning cafes, small stores and mom-and-pop shops can bank on even more traffic for those days, said Robert Boland, chairman of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University.
"It makes all of the economics directly around the arena better," he said, adding "If you are a restaurant or a bar that opened near Barclays, there's a far greater opportunity for you."
"It's not clear what the typical eventgoer will be like yet," said Boland.
So far, business owners said their fears about snarled traffic and an uptick in noise, crime and trash on event nights haven't been realized, but it's too soon to declare the arena a complete success.
Nets to open regular season
A big test will come this week when the Nets open their regular season Thursday against the Knicks. Whether basketball fans will pack the cafes and trendy bars that concertgoers seem to enjoy remains to be seen.
Parking remains a challenge and many regulars have stayed away from restaurants on concert nights, business owners said. Michelle Pulixi, co-owner of Convivium Osteria, worries about the area losing an atmosphere that's more laid back than Manhattan's tourist hubs.
"I'm concerned about the neighborhood getting a midtown feeling. That's not why we moved here 12 years ago," said Pulixi.
Franny's, which currently seats 40 people, is moving into a larger space farther from the arena next year, said Stephens, explaining "hopefully, concertgoers and regulars can enjoy a meal at the same time. There has been a shift that the regulars are staying away because of tourists, so I'm definitely looking forward to the expansion."
Pintchik said the popularity of the arena is also driving up real estate prices and could add more big commercial restaurants and retail to the area, which is prized for its boutiques and cafes. He lost a bid for the three-sided parcel on Flatbush Avenue, where Triangle Sports sat, a prime spot across from Barclays. Red Sky Capital paid $4.1 million for the property, but hasn't announced plans for tenants.
"I think you will see something good there because they paid a premium price," Pintchik said.