By Alex Valentine
As the Cubs eye their one-game wild-card playoff against the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday night, businesses in and around Wrigleyville are preparing for a potential postseason run on the North Side.
Wrigley Field beer vendor sales have increased in line with the Cubs’ wins this year, according to long-time vendor Nicolas Zimmerman.
Zimmerman’s personal business data shows the average amount of beer he sold per game this year is his most since 2011. Fan attendance is up 11.6 percent from last year, but his sales increased 25 percent in the same time frame, and more than 30 percent since the Cubs’ dismal 2013 season.
His sales in August and September this year rose 37 percent from the final months of the season the prior two years.
Zimmerman, who has worked part-time as a beer vendor for the better part of 20 years, explained that sales dropped slowly in the years following the Cubs’ 2008 short-lived playoff appearance before bottoming in the Cubs’ abysmal 2013 season in which they won just 66 out of 162 games.
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“Beer sales were so slow two years ago, that a lot of the veteran vendors starting carrying peanuts and hot dogs. It wasn’t good,” said Zimmerman.
“It’s not just how many fans are coming, but what also kind of fans are coming that makes a difference,” said Zimmerman, on how his sales growth outpaced Wrigley’s attendance growth the last two years. “When the Cubs are good, you get big corporate groups who can spend money at the game. When the team is down, it’s more tourists and people who don’t come to games as often.”
Sales at businesses around Wrigleyville have also reaped the benefits of the Cubs’ first winning season since 2009.
“All of our sales are up this year, but jerseys – especially Kris Bryant’s – are flying off the shelves,” said Josh Sklar, employee at Sports World Chicago, a Cubs apparel shop on Clark Street.
Bryant led all of Major League Baseball in jersey sales this year, becoming the first rookie to top the list since MLB began releasing jersey sale figures in 2010.
Sales are also up at HVAC Pub, a bar and restaurant about a block away from Wrigley Field, according to bar manager Jason Ruffin.
If the Cubs knock off the Pirates tonight, businesses expect another boom during a potential Cubs postseason run. Ruffin and Sklar both cited the excitement in Wrigleyville during the Blackhawks’ recent postseason success.
“For the playoffs, we expect Wrigleyville to be crazy…like it was during the NHL playoffs, but even more madness,” said Ruffin. “Fans have been waiting to celebrate a team like this. ”
If the Cubs win the wild-card game, they will begin a five-game series Friday in St. Louis against their division rival Cardinals.