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Middling Yankees Season Has Local Business Owners Looking for Relief

By Eddie Small | September 19, 2014 8:48am
 Business at bars and restaurants near Yankee Stadium has been relatively slow this year, owners say.
Business at bars and restaurants near Yankee Stadium has been relatively slow this year, owners say.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

CONCOURSE — The struggling New York Yankees are hurting more than just their fans.

Bar and restaurant owners near Yankee Stadium say they're seeing less business this season compared to past years, when a playoff appearance was all but guaranteed, and some are looking forward to the new Major League Soccer team to help buoy their bottom line.

The fact that this is Derek Jeter's last season was helping bring fans to the area, but business has still been slower than before, according to Steve Manesis, part owner of the nearby sports bar Billy's.

"The attendance is not the same like it used to be three, four years ago," he said.

Although the Yankees made the postseason every year from 1995 to 2007, and then again from 2009 to 2012, the team's past two seasons have been less than stellar.

The Bronx Bombers finished in fourth place in the AL East last year with an 85-77 record and were tied for second with the Toronto Blue Jays at 77-74 as of Thursday afternoon.

The team was tied for fifth place in the Wild Card race with the Baltimore Orioles already having clinched the division.

So far this year, attendance has barely cracked 3 million, a far cry from the 4.27 million of 2007, before the new stadium was built.

"It will have a big impact if they don't make the playoffs," said Cary Goodman, executive director of the 161st Street Business Improvement District. "Every playoff game is worth millions of dollars to the neighborhood."

Esteban Peguero recently opened Empanadas Monumental at 844 River Ave. and has co-owned the Yankee Bar & Grill below the eatery for a month.

"When they do good, business will do good," he said. "When they do bad, business will do bad."

Attendance at the new stadium, which opened in 2009 has steadily been dropping from 3.76 million recorded in 2010, according to team stats. The Yankees could not immediately be reached for comment.

Despite their 27 World Series victories, the Yankees have experienced playoff droughts before, going from 1965 to 1975 and 1982 to 1994 without making the postseason.

The Yankee Tavern, a restaurant and bar that's been in the South Bronx since the 1930s, has seen many good and bad years for the team. Owner Joe Bastone said that while business is better when the team is better, his eatery was still holding its own this season.

And the Yankees aren't the only thing impacting business at the Tavern, he added.

"We've been also influenced by competition from the stadium," he said, referring to the new ballpark's wide array of eateries, including the critically acclaimed NYY Steak.

Harold Terry, co-owner of the local sports bar The Dugout, said a lack of star power on the team and a mid-season injury to new pitcher Masahiro Tanaka helped keep fans away from the stadium — and his business — this year.

He agreed that Jeter's final season was the one factor still driving fans to the ballpark.

"If it wasn’t for Jeter, this being his last year, it would have been even worse," he said.

Terry singled out 2009, the last time the Yankees won the World Series, as a particularly strong year for his bar.

"People always want to see winners," he said. "People will definitely come out for winners. During that time, it was hard to even find tickets out here."

However, Terry was optimistic that the New York City Football Club, a Major League Soccer team that will start playing at Yankee Stadium in March, would help bring crowds to the neighborhood.

"That will add a lot more events to the calendar at the stadium," he said. "So when the Yankees are away, you’ll still have some things going on."