Restaurants, bars bracing for NHL woes


Claire Weatherall races some hot pizzas to lunch customers at Matchboxrestaurant in Chinatown.
September 30, 2012

Some of the restaurants and sports bars around the Verizon Center are bracing for a cold autumn — when it comes to customers.

That’s because the National Hockey League player lockout could put the Capitals’s season on ice until January or so, knocking significant business out of popular pre- and post-game Capitals hangouts such as Matchbox and Clyde’s.

At Clyde’s restaurant at Gallery Place, with its four massive bars plastered with flat screen televisions and seating for close to 400, there is a sense of loss throughout the management and serving staff.

“It’s going to hurt us,” said Clyde’s Gallery Place general manager Arvind Nair. “This is what we look for throughout the summer. September tends to be slow, so the payoff is when October comes and the hockey season starts.”

A hard-core Capitals crowd fills one of Clyde’s four bars, known informally as the Hockey Bar with its painting of Caps great Rod Langway. The restaurant’s seating area also is packed on hockey nights.

Nair said Clyde’s will likely need about 10 fewer serving staff shifts and about six fewer bartenders on nights where the crowd would balloon by 500 or so before a hockey game and about half that afterward, depending on whether it is weekend or weeknight.

“This is going to be felt by a lot of staff people,” Nair said. “There are people who would get extra hours who at this point won’t.”

Weekends and lunchtime are generally fine in the area, thanks to big employers and tourist draws such as the National Portrait Gallery and the International Spy Museum.

But the hockey games, which sell out the arena’s 18,500 seats, fill the local restaurants.

“They play 41 homes games, so it’s definitely going to be a loss of business if they are out the whole season,” said John Wyman, general manager of Matchbox Chinatown, which seats around 240.

“The staff is rooting for this to be resolved as quickly as possible. We are just hoping for the best,” Nair said.

The Buzz hears:

Grammy winner MC Hammer — “U Can’t Touch This” — is to be the lead entertainer at this year’s Fight Night, scheduled for Nov. 1 at the Washington Hilton.

The co-chairmen for this year’s event are Raul Fernandez, vice chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment; Chuck Kuhn, founder of JK Moving Services; Fred Schaufeld, chairman of Sterling-based NEW; and Joe Robert III, son of the late Joe Robert, who chaired Fight Night for years.

Fernandez said he recruited the three-time Grammy winner, who has sold over 50 million records, earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Law Vegas.

Thycotic Software, which sells password management software to corporate information technology departments, moved its digs from 23rd and M streets NW about six blocks away to 1101 17th St. NW, where it has double the space with 5,500 square feet. Vornado is the new landlord.

Thycotic, which was founded by Jonathan Cogley, has grown to 21 employees over the past three years. Most make around $100,000 and are around 30 years old.

More food

Richmond-based Dawson’s Market has come to Rockville, where the grocer is taking on Whole Foods, Mom’s Organic Market and other high-end stores with a 19,000-square-foot store that caters to Washington’s finicky food shoppers.

“The demographics are our type of customers,” said Rick Hood, who founded Dawson’s more than 20 years ago and opened the Rockville store on Saturday. “Education is the highest determinant. It’s an educated area, and we were attracted very much by the community.”

The store will be served by a staff of 100, and will include a full kitchen that will vary its menu daily. It will also include a cafe with a juice bar serving smoothies, coffee and tea. There will be a big focus on prepared foods, which is 25 percent of the sales Richmond flagship store’s sales.

“When they come into the store, we want [customers] to feel like they are building community. We spend a lot of money with the experience,” said Hood, 62, who is an architect by training.

Hood considers his niche to be full service, small and independent, drawing its products from small, local organic and natural farms.

“The store reflects a lot of my personal philosophy, which involves relationships” with local farmers, Hood said. “If you take care of community, take care of staff, do the right things with sustainability, social consciousness, you’ll be successful.”

Hood plans to be around a while. Dawson’s signed a 30-year-plus lease with Federal Realty Investment Trust.

Factoid of the week

300That’s the number of new employees Beltsville-based Vocus plans to hire by the end of this year. The cloud marketing softwaremaker already has 1,124 employees, up from 646 a year ago.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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