National Harbor catches FIFA fever for World Cup -- Gazette.Net


Despite Team USA’s elimination from the World Cup soccer tournament, eateries at National Harbor are still seeing a boom in business, thanks to showings of the games at restaurants and on the plaza’s giant screen.

More than 2,500 spectators came out to National Harbor July 1 when the United States lost its match against Belgium, said Lindsay Pitts, the marketing manager for National Harbor.

But soccer fans crowded National Harbor on Friday and Saturday as well to watch the quarter-finals, business owners said.

LaShawn Hayward, the shift leader at Potbelly Sandwich Works, said the sandwich shop was just as busy last weekend as it was July 1.

“We don’t expect any difference because people still come and watch the games, period,” Hayward said. “The crowd won’t be as big as it was, but it will be busy.”

Milkshakes have been the number one seller during the World Cup, she added.

“Sales have just rocketed,” Hayward said. “We’re doing good.”

Brandii Daniels, one of the managers at Redstone American Grill, said the restaurant’s patio, which faces the 18-by-32 foot screen, was packed.

“It was a holiday weekend, so we had a crowd and I don’t know if it was because of the USA game or because people were out celebrating,” Daniels said.

Gabrielle Equale, the manager of the Bond 45 Italian steakhouse, said the restaurant opened its balcony at 4 p.m. July 1, an hour earlier than usual, so customers could settle in and watch the game.

“Last time the USA played everyone was outside, so we decided to take advantage of the business,” Equale said. “It filled up pretty quickly.”

Kris Diemar, director of operations for steakhouse, said Bond 45 would do the same for the semifinals.

“The USA brought out monster crowds but we have had great crowds for every other game,” Diemar said. “Three of the four teams were expected to be there so we think the following of those teams will be huge.”

Donnell Long, the owner of the Olde Towne Inn restaurant in Upper Marlboro, said he has seen a decrease in the number of customers coming to watch the games.

When the USA played, Long said his restaurant was packed with people watching the games on TVs inside and outside the restaurant. On Saturday, only a few people sat at the bar to watch the quarter-finals, he said.

“Obviously it’s a big deal when the USA is not in it,” Long said. “It was definitely not the same crowd.”