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Miami Area Hotels Charging Premium Rates Pronounce the Super Bowl
 a Boon; Some Retailers and Restaurateurs Underwhelmed by Spending
By Douglas Hanks, Monica Hatcher and Jim Wyss, The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Feb. 6, 2007 - On this drizzly Monday, a forlorn Ariel Lazimi declared herself devastated by Super Bowl XLI.

She's no diehard Bears fan. But she owns a jewelry store on South Beach's Lincoln Road, where retailers reported a sharp drop in customers as locals stayed home and tourists flocked to Super Bowl events on the beach.

"It was pretty devastating to see," Lazimi said from a seat in her empty South Beach Jewelry Exchange, where sales dropped 50 percent last week. "We closed early every night."

A dozen blocks away -- and steps from where ESPN set up its beachside Super Bowl studio for the week -- Oliver Nikolich seemed a huge fan of the Bowl. Not for the Colts victory, but for the 20 percent boost the week brought his art gallery on Ocean Drive.

"They were looking to buy things other than Super Bowl merchandise," said Nikolich, pointing to the $2,300 Dr. Seuss hand-reproduced prints he is shipping to customers in Chicago. "We did incredibly well."

DIFFERENT RHYTHM

The contrasting reports offer a lesson on how the game affected South Florida's economy.

While the frenzy brought high-spending visitors and deep-pocketed party planners, it also disrupted the commercial rhythms that sustain other businesses.

"It wasn't as great as I thought it would be." said Tim Ludwig, a manager at Timpano Italian Chophouse on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Despite a surge of customers Friday and Saturday nights, sales were flat compared to last year.

Organizers expected Super Bowl XLI to generate more than $350 million for the local economy from an estimated 125,000 visitors.

Other economists disputed that figure as inflated and said it ignored how much money South Florida would see during a normal February weekend.

It will be months before local governments report sales tax figures and other data used to analyze a Super Bowl's economic impact. Monday, reports from local businesses offered fodder for both sides of the debate.

Hotels charging premium rates pronounced the game a boon.

But some retailers and restaurateurs found themselves underwhelmed by spending -- particularly given all the economic hype.

Business at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the biggest hotel property near the stadium, was better than originally thought, said marketing VP Susan O'Connell.

O'Connell said the Hard Rock was filled to capacity with "Bears fans, Colts fans, locals" -- and lots of new visitors.

PARTY TIME

The rain didn't stop after-parties at the casino and its Paradise entertainment district next door, home to 20 restaurants, bars and clubs. At midnight, the rain was still heavy, but cars kept pulling in.

It was "busy, crazy, wonderful," she said. "Absolutely incredible."

Added David Wahba, sales director for the sold-out Sheraton Yankee Clipper in Fort Lauderdale: "I would take three Super Bowls a year if I could get them."

But at El Rancho Grande, a Mexican restaurant on Lincoln Road popular with locals, business was "very bad," said assistant manager Isabel DeLeon.

The reason? Too many local customers scared off by traffic jams prompted by dozens of Super Bowl events.

"There was one who asked if we could deliver a margarita," DeLeon recalled. 'I said, 'No, come to the restaurant.' They said they didn't want to."

WET WEATHER

A cloudy, wet weekend didn't help with foot traffic, though clouds proved a boon to sales elsewhere. Dominick Daniel, an assistant manager at the West Marine boating store at 163rd Street and Biscayne Boulevard, said business was up for the last several days as out-of-towners hit his store -- first for beach apparel and then, on Sunday, for rain gear.

"There just seemed to be a lot more people milling around," he said.

Though tourists are the main economic engine for the game, local spending also counts.

Super Bowl XLI fell short there, according to sellers of the game's official merchandise.

"We had to sell quite a lot of merchandise at a discount," said Jon Brovold, whose J.E.B. Enterprises in Andover, Minn., set up Super Bowl shops in Broward and Miami-Dade to peddle official shirts, shot glasses, footballs, hats and more.

"I don't think the locals really care" about the game being in town, he said, noting it was last here in 1999 and will be back in 2010. "It's just not that big of a deal."

BETTER THAN USUAL

Bob Brantmeyer, owner of Sun Dream Yacht Charters in Fort Lauderdale, felt the same way. Despite heightened expectations, he saw business slightly above a typical February week.

"I don't think it's the windfall the NFL tells you it will be. No, no," he said. "But I'm happy to have it."

Of course, the frenzy that a Super Bowl brings can disrupt economies even if the game isn't in town.

With 63 percent of American households tuning into the Sunday night broadcast, the post-Super Bowl Monday morning tends to generate a bit less spending from football fans.

"I think everyone took off or went into work late today," said Meredith Saylor, a Dunkin Donuts cashier in Fort Lauderdale. "Our morning rush was nonexistent."

Miami Herald staff writer Niala Boodhoo contributed to this report.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Miami Herald

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