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On and around Nicollet Mall, Super Bowl business varied

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The Bogart's Doughnut Co. stand at the IDS was busy on Friday.
Ben Sexe, manager at the Bogart's Doughnut Co. stand at the IDS, serves customers on Friday.
Peter Cox | MPR News

As the lunch hour got underway on Friday, fans in both Patriots and Eagles gear leaned over the bar inside Brit's Pub on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis.  Servers grabbed trays of glasses, while bartenders furiously poured drinks.

Tom and Melanie Aicardi, in from Boston, were getting a drink and getting out of the cold. They're the kind of guests Super Bowl organizers hoped for  —  here from Thursday to Tuesday, staying at a local hotel, eating at local restaurants and shopping. And, feeling free to spend a bit more than normal.

"We don't look at price tags while we're on vacation. We just go and do it," Tom Aicardi said. "They say it's a once in a lifetime opportunity, but we've been lucky enough that with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick we've been here eight times."

For the 10 days leading up to the Super Bowl, Brit's Pub brought in more bartenders, cooks, hosts and security.

"It's been — let's just say — nuts, crazy, fantastic business for us," said Shane Higgins, the general manager.

Higgins said the end of January and early February are typically a time to slow down.

"It's probably our quietest time of the year and it's turned around to be the busiest time of year," said Higgins. "I think relentless might be the word that we would use."

After more than two years of construction hurt the bottom line of many Nicollet Mall businesses, Super Bowl Live, which was held along the street, seems to have boosted revenue for many businesses on the strip.

But just a block and a half off Nicollet at the Hen House Eatery, spirits weren't as high on Friday. The restaurant hung up signs through the skyway inviting hungry fans to come downstairs and it put Super Bowl ads in the windows. 

"We had high hopes," said owner Tara Koenig.

"Everybody's talking about the million people that were coming into town and we geared up on staff, geared up on food, geared up on liquor and beer. And unfortunately, it's been a big letdown for us."

Koenig  said her regulars stayed away all week. Many of the big downtown employers allowed people to work from home and sales were actually down from a normal week.

But that was Friday. On Sunday, Koenig said things had picked up and Saturday and Sunday were record breaking days. Still, she said she wishes she had seen that rush during all 10 days.

Upstairs, in the skyway, Khin Oo, a chef at Sushi Takatsu, saw the same fall-off from regulars.

At Sushi Takatsu in the skyway, staff geared up for little traffic.
At Sushi Takatsu in the Minneapolis skyway, staff geared up for what they believed would be a busy week before the Super Bowl.
Peter Cox | MPR News

"I'd say on Wednesday and Thursday we were pretty hyped to get a lot of stuff out," said Oo. "I think a lot of the locals are avoiding being in downtown and then a lot of the people who are visiting from out of town maybe don't know how to navigate the skyway or something, so it's definitely not what we hoped."

The Super Bowl was supposed to be a big opportunity for O'Cheeze grilled cheese shop in the skyway. Tony and Haley Fritz opened two weeks ago in anticipation of the crowds.

"I think we expected to see a lot more out-of-towners," said Haley Fritz.

But they did see it at their cookie dough shop, Dough Dough.  But that one's over at the Mall of America.

The mall was the central hub for Super Bowl media. Tony Fritz said they saw an increase of 50 percent or more on their weekly sales.

Tony and Haley Fritz opened O’Cheeze before Super Bowl week.
Tony and Haley Fritz opened O'Cheeze, a cheese sandwich shop in the Minneapolis skyway on the Thursday before Super Bowl week, but found they had very few out of town customers.
Peter Cox | MPR News

"Everybody came in from east parking, walked right past our space, including media people, local, nationwide affiliates and stuff like that, so definitely we saw a huge increase there at the Mall of America," he said.

When Minneapolis was picked for the Super Bowl in 2014, Michele Kelm-Helgen, then chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, told MPR News the public dollars for the stadium were worth it.

"That's the reason the governor and those legislators invested public money in this facility," said Kelm-Helgen. "To bring all these big events and the economic impact that comes with it."

That impact could be felt at the Bogart's Doughnut Co. stand in the atrium of the IDS Center, which could barely keep up with the lines last week.

"I think on a normal Thursday we sell like 300 doughnuts here, and Thursday we sold 1,500," said Ben Sexe, the manager of the stand. 

As he talked, the line kept growing, "Oh yeah, nonstop, nonstop, I gotta go."