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How North End businesses coped with Winter Olympics, lack of Bruins games

Posted by Andrew Tran  February 24, 2014 10:25 AM

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With the National Hockey League on an 18-day hiatus for the Olympics and the Celtics only playing two home games in that time, The Fours on Canal Street focused on the crowds that came to TD North Garden for Disney on Ice.

When the Boston Bruins are in town for a home game, it doesn’t just excite the fans — it excites all businesses surrounding the TD Garden.

But every four years since the 1998 winter Olympic games in Nagano, Japan, the National Hockey League has gone under a two-week hiatus to allow the league’s players to participate in the winter games. This year, the league’s hiatus was a little over two weeks: 18 days, to be exact.

While the Bruins not playing and Celtics playing only two home games while the Bruins were off for the Olympic break, many businesses in the area were forced to adjust their schedules and restaurants adjust their menu based on the audience attending the TD Garden. The good news: Disney on Ice was in town for nine days.

“We will probably close during the weekdays and only open on weekends,” said a manager of popular bar nearby TD Garden who wishes to remain anonymous because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the matter.

Peter Colton, owner and manager of The Four’s Restaurant and Bar on Canal Street said that the NHL break affected his business some but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. He said the restaurant has become accustomed to decreased business during school vacation breaks and the hockey and basketball off-seasons.

Colton said The Fours hoped to attract a different clientele when Disney on Ice was in town.

“We get a lot of big groups, a lot of real young kids where we’re doing a lot of kiddie meals, hot dogs, chicken fingers type of thing so it’s a lot of labor, a lot of cleanup involved,” Colton said. “ Obviously the profit margin is not quite as large as the bigger meal, it’s a different business. ”

On a typical night before a Bruins or Celtics game, the bars and restaurants in the area fill up before and after the game. Before the game, customers would make a stop by the restaurant for quick bite to eat while some come to the restaurant to watch the game.

While some restaurants felt the loss during the break, so did some area hotels. Vanessa Vitale, general manager of The Boxer Boston, a boutique Boston Hotel on Merrimac Street, said the two week hiatus cut into The Boxer’s usual hotel and food and beverage business.

“During Bruins nights, especially pre-game, we get busy just from guests wanting a quick cocktail or appetizer, especially from the VIP-seated guests or the corporate guests,” said Vitale.

The hotel came up with alternative ways to rent rooms during the time off. People that typically come in from out of town but not necessarily far away — from the Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut area — for a game weren’t booking roms while both the Bruins and the Celtics were away.

“We have found ways to be flexible and adapt to the market segments coming in whether they’re concerts. We have a very different guest when Justin Beiber is in town rather than Elton John on non-Bruins or Celtics nights because we know how
to cater to the Bruins and Celtics guest because we’re honed in on that person,” said Vitale.

Here’s the good news for North End bars and restaurants: the Bruins resume their home schedule against the Washington Capitols on Saturday, March 1, at 1 p.m. and play eight home games in March. The Celtics Play Wednesday night, Feb. 28, at home, and have nine homes games in March.

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