This year’s Dodger season opener was a huge hit at Barragan’s, the Echo Park Mexican restaurant that is often packed with baseball fans before and after games. “It was huge. It was a record breaking day,” said owner Armando Barragan, whose family’s Sunset Boulevard restaurant sits only a few blocks from the ballpark’s Sunset Boulevard gate. It was a short-lived boom.
The restaurant’s Dodger-related business is now off by about 20% in the wake of the beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow in the ballpark following the season opener. A lackluster playing season and owner Frank McCourt’s messy divorce and problems with Major League Baseball have not helped matters. A recent Los Angeles Times article said the Dodger home games have so far averaged about 7,000 fewer fans this year, which means fewer customers for Echo Park restaurants and bars.
Anyone who has driven or walked down Sunset Boulevard before or after a recent game has noticed the difference. Traffic jams before and after the games seem relatively light and short-lived. The lines of fans waiting to get into Echo Park watering holes seems shorter, too. Neighborhood restaurants such as Barragan’s count on visiting Dodger fans to help offset the loss of regular customers who are away on summer vacation. “It fills in the gap,” Barragan said of the Dodger business.
The impact on Echo Park’s drinking and dining scene is mixed, with Barragan assuming that restaurants and bars closer to the stadium have taken a bigger hit than those further west. At Taix restaurant, where a banner out front features a Dodger player and the words “An L.A. Favorite Before and & After The Game,” owner Mike Taix said said there has been “not much drop off, really.” In fact, the Dodger fans that come in for a drink or a bite to eat might be hanging out longer at the French restaurant.
“As there’s less urgency …to get to the game they are tending to stay longer,” Taix said by email. “So it may be a wash.”
Oliver Wilson, who owns The Short Stop, one of the closes bars to the stadium, said business has “never been better.” He shares Taix’s view that “people seem to be staying longer before the games and are lingering into the later innings. The thing is that baseball fans are hardy folk who are used to ups and downs, and I think most of our baseball clientele are typical in that they are loyal but cynical supporters.”
At Barragan’s, the restaurant has been able to helped attract fans and locals by offering $3 Tecates, which has proved popular since the Dodgers and police have cracked down on illegal tailgate parties in the stadium lot and surrounding streets and parks. Bringing down the price of beer…has been “bringing in new fans.” Barragan said.
Some other restaurants, such as Masa of Echo Park, said they have not noticed a drop in business on game nights. But Masa co-owner Rhonda Reynolds did notice a lack of enthusiasm when she tried to giveaway free Dodger tickets for Echo Park Night at Dodger Stadium. Said Reynolds:
Every year we buy tickets to support Echo Park Night at Dodger Stadium and give them out for free our staff and a few long time Masa regulars. This year some people who used to go, declined the tickets and said they were boycotting the Dodgers because of all the “problems”. We had a hard time giving them away.