It probably comes as little surprise that gigantic protests provide a boost for nearby businesses. I used to be on the serving side of that equation at a Colfax restaurant; let me tell you: those post-protest rushes are crazy.
I wanted to see who gains most from this kind of thing, so I went around asking all kinds of business owners near the Civic Center area how they fared on the day of the March for Our Lives. While most establishments saw more customers than a regular Saturday, bars with kitchens, by far, saw the most benefit.
What do we want? Drinks!
That was the mindset for many of the patrons that streamed into Dino McTaggart’s Cap City Tavern on Bannock Street following Saturday’s march. His establishment welcomed protesters in two waves, one before and one after the surge in Civic Center Park.
He put the national coverage up on his TVs and served a “standing room only” crowd for lunch, many of them families who parked nearby and made a day of it.
“It was nice. It was hella busy,” he said. For a sports bar that does its best days closer to the Superbowl,“This was, sales-wise, similar to football.”
McTaggart said an average daily taking for Cap City is about $3,000. On protest Saturday the bar raked in as much as $8,000.
City Grille manager Allison Ives told me the March for Our Lives nearly doubled their average Saturday take. (Full disclosure: I used to work there and she was my boss.) While they were busy all day, the bulk of those transactions took place during a crazy two-hour rush.
Ives said the crowd in her Colfax bar was even comparable to Denver’s mighty Pride weekend, which has consistently broken sales records for them.
Scott Diamond, the proprietor at Pints Pub, said his British brewpub on 13th Avenue near Bannock Street also made a killing last Saturday. His predictable big business days often occur with an opening at the Denver Art Museum. The march this week matched those busy days.
“We expected it to be huge,” he said, though he prefers a slower pace that allows his staff time to chat with customers about their offerings.
A manager at City O’ City over on 13th Avenue also reported an excellent business day.
But the protest pop isn’t evenly distributed.
While other types of businesses said they did pretty well last weekend, none had gains quite like the area bars.
Holly Brooks, owner of Capitol Hill Books on Colfax, told me she thinks she made somewhere around 60 percent more than average last Saturday.
But, she said, that was to be expected. Her bookstore leans a little to the left and lends itself to the protest crowd. The Women’s March, she said, is her best day of the year.
Other businesses nearby didn’t fare as well.
Willie Stallworth, who runs Argonant Groceries a block east from Brooks’ bookstore, said his bodega had an unremarkable day. That’s for paid transactions, at least. Stallworth said he did think there were more people popping in to use his restroom.
Next door, manager Nhanh Tran at Phở-natic (which Stallworth also owns) reported that they also had a pretty normal day despite the crowds outside. Tran says his busiest days usually have more to do with cold weather than civic action.
And Tyler Nielson, who works at Buffalo Exchange at 13th Avenue and Grant Street, said his sales were unremarkable despite being on the same block with crowds flooding into City O’ City.
The Denver Art Museum also reported their attendance was on par with a normal Saturday.
Businesses that only deal in vice? Also not so lucky. Satellite Bar (across the street from City Grille on Colfax) and Euflora, a dispensary on the 16th Street Mall, both reported business-as-usual kind of days.
And then an exception to the rule: Shish Kabob Grill, the Syrian-owned Mediterranean spot on Colfax at Grant Street was slammed.
All day, said Obeid Kaifo, who’s family owns the restaurant, “It felt like a hopping Friday night.”
He compared it to Christmas or New Years Day, not quite twice as much business as normal but darn close.