It hasn’t just been tough on the Bronx Bombers blowing this year’s playoffs, for only the second time in 19 years.
As the World Series kicked off this week in Boston, the bars and souvenir shops back in the Bronx that depend on the Yanks for business were either running at limited capacity or shuttered entirely.
“It’s like a resort town out here,” said Cary Goodman, who runs the E. 161st Street Business Improvement District.
Bars bummed out
Closed down stores and quiet streets set in whenever the Yankees aren’t playing, but this year the pinstriped cash cow ran dry early.
The season’s final home game was Sept. 26. Even a handful of extra home games in the playoffs, which start in October and can stretch into early November, would have been a major boon for local businesses.
“Every playoff game would mean more money than we can make now in a week,” said Joe Bastone, owner of the iconic Yankee Tavern on E. 161st.
Bastone’s place stays open for lunch, dinner and drinks year-round, raking in a bit of lunch business from the Bronx Courthouse up the street at E. 161st and Grand Concourse. In the off-season, the restaurant opens for shorter hours and with a smaller staff, he said.
On a recent Friday evening, the space was empty, save for a group of men clutching lottery tickets and gathered around a television.
The place would have been swarming with customers had the Yankees been in town, he said. Fans line up to pay $2 dollars extra for mixed drinks and beers until 2 a.m. when the team is at home.
A ghost town
A few steps west in the direction of the stadium, Billy’s, a sports bar that recently tripled in size with a $4 million renovation, was still open, but its snazzy new cavernous dancehall in back was also empty, though the owner plans to host events there during the offseason.
Even closer to the Stadium, most stores on River Avenue, under the rumbling elevated subway, are boarded up.
Stan’s Sports Bar and souvenir shop are closed for business, and the Dugout, another sports bar on the strip, decided to close its doors as well until the Pinstripe Bowl, a college football game held at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 29.
“You make a lot of money during the playoffs, but it’s expected that you count your money during the regular season,” said Louis Valle, a manager at Dugout.
Some shops stay open even amid the tough times. At the corner of E. 161th and River Avenue, a souvenir shop called Yankee Land is keeping doors open, marketing to the few sporadic tourists visiting the stadium.
Customers are sparse, but the BID’s Goodman said he expects the businesses to survive losing the October traffic and be back in full force come next spring.
“There’s so much business during the season,” he said, “that in the non-season they can just sit around, hanging out, enjoying the ambiance.”