Pictured above: New Jersey devils fans mill around outside Brick City Bar and Grill.
Seven years ago, the opening of the Prudential Center in Newark gave high hopes for the continued revitalization of the city. Instead, local businesses that rely on the arena’s patrons are not feeling the benefits.
Located right across the street from the Prudential Center is a small restaurant row comprised of three restaurants – Edison Ale House, Loft47, and Brick City Bar and Grill. Fans enter and exit the arena almost right in front of all three restaurants. But even with such proximity, both have struggled with a lack of consistent patronage.
“We moved in one year after the arena was built, and have felt the affects of the arena’s NHL New Jersey Devils lockout, [the] New Jersey Nets moving, and lack of events,” said Edison Ale House general partner Ray Levy. “They need to have more concerts and events, because we struggle to attract tourists and locals.”
The 2012-2013 National Hockey League lockout caused troubles for the trio of restaurants after the typical 82-game season was shortened to just 48. For restaurants in the area, hockey night patronage doubles and sometimes triples their business. But on non-game and event nights, staffs are cut and the restaurants struggle to keep doors open.
“When the lockout happened, waiters and waitresses lost shifts, and it was hard to stay in business,” Levy said. “The Nets leaving didn’t affect us that much, but when the lockout hit, then it hurt. We needed local patronage but never got it. I don’t even think locals know we’re here.”
One block away from the Edison Place restaurants is the Gateway Center, an office complex that has many commercial businesses, and connects to Newark Penn Station. Thousands work in and commute through the center daily, but few venture just a block away to restaurant row.
“If there are no events at the arena, we rely on locals to come have a drink after work. But honestly, commuters would rather go home,” Brick City Bar and Grill manager Dan Wasama said. “We make $3000 to $4000 on an average night, but during hockey nights, [we make about] $15,000.“
The nearby Broad and Market Street intersection has a reputation as being a dangerous area in Newark, and that has affected perception of the radius around the intersection. Wasama thought security in the area had been improved by the city, but still felt tourists and nearby employees and commuters didn’t completely feel safe.
Penn Station commuter Amy Stewart echoed that sentiment. “I don’t like to be on Broad Stree," she said, adding that she thinks there's illegal activity going on near the intersection. “I literally come to work and go home. I trust the restaurants in my city to be safer.”
Wasama spoke about how tourists walk directly to the stadium and then Penn Station, avoiding Broad Street completely. “Newark has a reputation for being a bad and dangerous place to visit,” Wasama said. “New Yorkers don’t want to come over here for anything. It takes literally 15 minutes by train to get here, but people won’t even do that.”
Newark is the last stop on the World Trade Center to Newark Path train, and Wasama’s statement seemed to resonate among commuters in New York. Outside of the World Trade Center memorial, tourist Mark Shilton said, “I’m not making a trip to New Jersey at all, I’ve heard too many negative things about that state and don’t want to get caught up.”
Management at both Edison Ale House and Brick City Bar and Grill agree that the Prudential Center needs to host more events and that the city should continue to revitalize the area, both of which they think will help to improve business and the community.