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Eateries brace for Blue blitz

South end facilities face rushes on game day

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Hungry and thirsty football fans will have to develop a new routine now that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have moved into Investors Group Field.

For the past few decades, they could drop in on more than a dozen restaurants and lounges just a short walk away from the ticket gate at the now nearly demolished Canad Inns Stadium.

But starting with the first exhibition game on June 12 at the new park, most fans are going to discover that walking from close to the Perimeter Highway or McGillivray Boulevard to the University of Manitoba is a little more than they're prepared to do 10 times a season.

 

'It puts us in a unique position in the area, being the only business that's in such close proximity to the stadium with a liquor licence'

-- the Hub manager Jack Jonasson

Just how and where the crowds of more than 30,000 will congregate on game day is anybody's guess, but local restaurateurs aren't taking a wait-and-see approach.

The big winner could very easily be the Hub, the 230-seat pub on the third floor of University Centre at the U of M. Manager Jack Jonasson will be putting flyers on the 6,000 to 7,000 vehicles that park on campus for Bomber games and using a plethora of in-bar promotions to build up awareness for the year-old pub among students and non-students like.

"We're expecting it to be very busy. We are literally a three-minute walk (from Investors Group Field). It puts us in a unique position in the area, being the only business that's in such close proximity to the stadium with a liquor licence," he said.

Peter Ginakes, owner of the Pony Corral Pier 7, is also expecting Bomber games will result in unprecedented traffic at his Pembina Highway restaurant, lounge and patio. In a unique twist, he's hoping a significant number of them won't bring their vehicles.

'We're not accustomed to dealing with big, big crowds at this end of the city. Downtown, everybody has learned to deal with the masses'

-- Nick Zifarelli, owner of Nicolino's Restaurant/the Orbit Room

Instead, he's encouraging Bomber fans who own boats to park at his marina, come in for some food and drink and take either the bus or limo service he'll be offering to the game. He'll also be running a shuttle from his other three locations around town for football fans.

"We're gearing up right now. We've been training and adding employees. This is going to be huge for the south end of Winnipeg. We're excited," he said.

So is Nick Zifarelli, owner of Nicolino's Restaurant/the Orbit Room. He's overhauling his menu to make it more efficient so Bomber fans can come in at 5 p.m., order their food and be in their seats before the opening kickoff.

"It's going to be a trial by fire," he said. "We're not accustomed to dealing with big, big crowds at this end of the city. Downtown, everybody has learned to deal with the masses. We have to deal with twice that crowd. It's going to be a real challenge."

Zifarelli is going to offer shuttle service to and from the stadium while pushing back reservations from his long-standing customers until after the game has started so they'll be able to get the same service they've become used to.

And if restaurant servers and bartenders are run off their feet during Bomber games and concerts, there's a very good chance that more eateries will put up a shingle, according to Scott Jocelyn, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant & Food Services Association.

"There will be a bit of a settling-in period. If there's a good opportunity for restaurants to expand to Pembina Highway, they will. They'll go where the business is. A lot of the restaurants around the old stadium weren't there so much for the stadium but for Polo Park (Shopping Centre). They certainly benefitted from the football games, though," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 30, 2013 B4

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Updated on Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 6:27 AM CDT: replaces photos, adds video

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