Cashing in on the World Cup, Philly bars score big

Dan Zulker (center) celebrates Germany's 4-0 rout of Portugal with other fans Monday at Brauhaus Schmitz on South Street. The restaurant is profiting off Germany's local fan base.
Dan Zulker (center) celebrates Germany's 4-0 rout of Portugal with other fans Monday at Brauhaus Schmitz on South Street. The restaurant is profiting off Germany's local fan base. (VIVIANA PERNOT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 19, 2014

Long, grueling months of World Cup planning and preparation paid off big for the Germans this week.

For the soccer team, sure. It thrashed Portugal. But on a local level, too - for the Brauhaus Schmitz restaurant on South Street.

Before the doors opened Monday, the venue's owners devised and implemented a special flat-fee admission plan. Work schedules were checked and rechecked, advertising booked and delivered. Staffers hung extra big-screen TVs and decorated the restaurant in Deutschland banners of black, red, and gold.

The result? A triumph as impressive as the 4-0 drubbing inflicted on the Portuguese.

On what could have been a slow summery Monday, the bier hall filled with dozens of Germany supporters, who downed bratwurst and pretzels by the platter and beer by the gallon. And if some of the more exotic German brews cost $9.50 a bottle, nobody asked why.

" This is why!" shouted Dan Zulker, a New Jersey accountant, who thrust his arms skyward as the restaurant erupted when Germany scored.

The day was exhausting, exhilarating, enriching - with more ahead.

"We've been planning for this for two years," said owner Doug Hager, a big Germany fan who wore the team's traditional white and black jersey.

World Cup winners aren't only to be found on the fields of Brazil. In the Philadelphia region, some business people are sweating to make money from one of the world's most-watched events.

The victors? Bars and restaurants that, knowing virtually every local tavern will show the U.S. team's games, have moved to capitalize on other niches.

Brauhaus Schmitz is headquarters for supporters of Germany, a team some soccer experts pick to win it all - and fill the restaurant for the next three weeks. Flames House, a restaurant in the Northeast, is a gathering place for Brazil fans, with green-and-yellow jerseys, hats, and scarves for sale at nearby By Brazil.

Fado Irish Pub in Center City is an English and American stronghold. One suburban restaurant, Brittingham's in Lafayette Hill, is going all-out to attract the fans of an overlooked and mid-ranked team, Croatia.

"It's a pivotal moment to drive sales," said Brittingham's general manager Tim Killeen. "We're putting all our resources into it. We have literally etched out the entire soccer schedule. We can ID which games are going to bring in how many dollars."

He called the Croatian consulate - and that of Honduras - to say Brittingham's was eager to host their fans. "The Croatian contingent needs a place that it can call home," Killeen said.

The expected take for Brittingham's during the cup? Probably an extra $30,000 to $40,000, he said.

The restaurant has altered its hours to be open for lunch Mondays during the tournament, and other establishments are doing the same.

For them, it's a time to make money while the sun shines - literally. A favorable day and evening TV schedule offers an opportunity to vanquish the annual lull of June and July.

"The World Cup brings together passionate fans who will meet at bars, restaurants, and homes to watch the matches," said Kirk Wakefield, executive director of sports and entertainment marketing at Baylor University's School of Business. "Sure, people eat and drink all the time, but they eat and drink more when they're with friends watching a sporting event."

Which raises the question during day games: Don't these fans have jobs?

The fans' answer: Lighten up, it's the World Cup. Many at the Brauhaus on Monday had organized their work schedules around the days that Germany is scheduled to play, next on Saturday and June 26.

"It's so much fun, being in a German bar when you have everyone cheering for the same team," said new mother Kathrin Shechtman, wearing a black Germany jersey as she cradled almost-4-month-old Milia.

On Monday night, when the U.S. team's John Brooks headed in the winner against Ghana, a packed Fado detonated in red, white, and blue. The same reaction occurred among hundreds gathered at the Piazza at Schmidts in Northern Liberties, who watched on an outdoor screen while buying food, beer, and soccer gear.

Philadelphia Union players Amobi Okugo, Zac MacMath, and Austin Berry made official appearances there, while Andrew Wenger, Antoine Hoppenot, and Danny Cruz came just to hang out.

The Union, struggling through a disappointing season, seized a chance to drive the game's popularity and add followers during the World Cup. Its PPL Park in Chester hosted the "Road to Brazil" series this month, drawing 10,131 to see Greece play Nigeria and 7,000 for Costa Rica vs. Ireland.

The cup losers? That's harder to define, economists and sports authorities said. But among them are firms where employees so love the sport that they skip work to watch games or come in exhausted after partying all night.

One comparison: During the first two days of the 2013 NCAA Division I college men's basketball championship, otherwise known as March Madness, American firms lost an estimated $134 million because employees were watching games and checking scores, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago career transitioning firm.

Soccer fans who can't sneak off to a TV still follow the scoring on the Internet at work and converse with friends via social media.

"Both of which," Baylor's Wakefield noted, "are not working."

Joyce Maroney, director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos, an employee management firm, predicted a cup-driven spike in "unplanned absences."

That is, people who call in sick so they can watch the game or who are too tired to come to work afterward. Those absences are more costly to employers, who struggle to fill shifts or handle extra work, than planned absences, such as scheduled vacation time.

Maroney cited research by Harris Interactive that found 11 percent of workers have called in sick so they could catch a sports event. Among men aged 18 to 34, it was 23 percent - nearly one out of four.

Seven percent have claimed illness when in fact they had stayed up too late to watch a game. Among men ages 35 to 44, the figure was 18 percent.

Eric Montroy, a federal public defender in Philadelphia, is on the job and working - albeit in the red-and-white checkerboard jersey of Croatia he donned at the start of the tournament.

"I try to watch as many of the games as I can," the Jenkintown lawyer said. "The later games during the week, I'll watch at least a few at a bar or restaurant, and we'll go with friends.

Mostly, said Matthew Robinson, director of the sports management program at the University of Delaware, the bars are full because of an event that occurred 20 years ago: The United States hosted the World Cup.

Critically, the organizers avoided the huge costs that other countries have incurred building new stadiums, access roads, and rail lines. The U.S. games were played in NFL stadiums, which meant construction costs were almost nonexistent.

Brazil has built or refurbished stadiums in 12 cities, pushing the cost of this World Cup, the most expensive in the event's history, to more than $11 billion.

The U.S.-hosted cup generated a $50 million profit, said Robinson, a former consultant to the U.S. Soccer Federation, and that money helped launch Major League Soccer, advance the U.S. Development Academy, and fund grassroots programs.

"We've become a soccer nation," said Robinson, noting that the U.S. has qualified for every World Cup since 1990, joining the elite company of Germany, Brazil, Italy, Argentina, Spain, and South Korea. "Twenty years ago, it was a blip. Now it's a big deal."

On Monday, shouts and cheers spilled from Brauhaus Schmitz onto South Street. Some fans paid a $10 cover charge that included a drink, while others bought a $60 VIP package that included an open beer bar featuring Warsteiner and Dinkelacker, sausage sandwiches and roast pork, and a 10-foot high-definition screen.

Many patrons said they would be back for the next German match.

"People who are passionate about Germany, they take the day off of work," said chef Jeremy Nolen. "It's pretty intense."


>Inquirer.com

For standings, results, and more soccer action, visit

www.inquirer.com/worldcup


jgammage@phillynews.com

215-854-4906

@JeffGammage

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