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Uptown businesses benefit from the Carolina Panthers’ winning streak in sales, foot traffic

By Caroline McMillan Portillo
cmcmillan@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/11/19/50/1jjVAl.Em.138.jpeg|316
    DAVID T. FOSTER III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers fan John Forster tries on a team football glove at the Carolina Panthers Team Store Nov. 11. Sales at the store see a boost when the team wins.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/11/19/40/z2guf.Em.138.jpeg|216
    DAVID T. FOSTER III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers fans Kevin Chandler, right, and Michael Johnson check out new items in at the Carolina Panthers team store at Bank of America Stadium on Nov. 11. The Panthers will face the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football next week on ESPN.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/11/19/50/1uJsay.Em.138.jpeg|197
    DAVID T. FOSTER III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers fans Crystal Satterwhite, right, and daughter Camille, center, 5, plays with Panthers No. 1 hands while shopping with Gavin Gayton, 5, at the Carolina Panthers Team Store at Bank of America Stadium on Nov. 11 after the team’s win against the San Francisco 49ers the day before.

For Charlotte’s uptown bars and restaurants, a Panthers win is good. A winning streak is better.

And hosting Monday Night Football coming off the longest winning streak in eight years?

“More excitement, more momentum,” said Don Burgoon, whose family owns Picasso’s Sports Cafe on South Church Street. On a normal Monday night, he’d have a staff of five. But this coming Monday, he’s bringing in a crew of 17 to serve the tailgaters, game-watchers and postgame revelers.

“People want to be out in a crowd, and they want to share it with other people,” he said.

Norm Randall, co-owner of Dilworth Neighborhood Grille on East Morehead Street, started running a free shuttle to Bank of America Stadium nearly a decade ago for game-day customers.

When the Panthers are losing, he might shuttle 25 people. When they’re winning, it’s more like 60 people.

And when they’re winning and it’s a big game – such as next Monday’s showdown against the New England Patriots – he expects a shuttle crowd of 100.

“Everybody is ready to go,” Randall said. “Winning cures everything.”

Sunday’s come-from-behind win against the San Francisco 49ers, the defending NFC Champions who were playing on their home turf, brought the Panthers to a 6-3 record – and the first five-game winning streak since 2005.

It also brought excited fans to the Panthers team store at Bank of America Stadium on Monday afternoon.

Store manager Shawn Lawson said jerseys for quarterback Cam Newton and linebacker Luke Kuechly, which range from $100 to $250 for an adult size, are top choices.

“People are always coming in fresh off the win,” Lawson said.

Noel Armenta, donning a Panthers hat and teal “Keep Pounding” bracelet, came out of the team store with a Panthers hoodie for his fiancee’s, Dana Slaughter’s, birthday.

“After a win, you have to feel good,” Armenta said, “and you’re more apt to dig into your pocket a little more. … Nobody wants to buy stuff when we’re losing.”

Armenta said his fiancee – a server at the postgame hotspot Midnight Diner on East Carson Boulevard uptown – even saw a boost to her own bottom line.

“I could tell the Panthers were winning by the money she was making,” Armenta said. “Her tips were better.”

Eddie South, general manager of Midnight Diner, said happy postgame fans will often go to bars uptown, then stop by the diner later that night. Even Panthers players will stop in to eat, he said – almost always when the team wins, and only sometimes when they lose.

“When you win, people get happier,” he said. “When you lose, you’re sad and you go home and cry.”

Bob Bonds, a bartender at Valhalla Pub and Eatery on South Church Street, is a native Charlottean and longtime Panthers fan. He remembers the 2003-04 Super Bowl run – as well as the 1-15 season.

“Panthers fans are so optimistic at the beginning of the season,” he said. “But then they always lose hope.”

That’s why last season the bar was populated by a lot of away-team fans, Bonds said. When the New York Giants beat the Panthers 36-7 last year, New York fans celebrated until closing time, Bonds said.

But not this season.

Bonds said Valhalla, which can seat about 70 people at full capacity, has been consistently packed before, during and after the games.

When the home team is losing, game-day sales can hover at $4,000 to $5,000, Bonds said.

But when the Panthers have a big win against a noteworthy opponent, sales could be anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000 a night.

Parviz Shahdad, owner of Mike Discount Beverage on Park Road, a small beer and wine shop, said he’s maintaining a wait-and-see approach.

When the Panthers have gone to the playoffs, sales were consistently up 15 to 20 percent, he said.

“You could tell they were getting ready for the first game of the playoffs, then the Super Bowl … lots of orders,” Shahdad said. “I can tell the difference.”

He hasn’t seen that spike yet this season, but he’s still hopeful.

Joseph Cornett, a sous-chef at Mimosa Grill, located in the Wells Fargo building at South Tryon Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, expects big crowds Monday – especially if the Panthers win.

“It’s always good before the game,” he said. “But if the guys could keep winning, it’d be a good night.”

McMillan Portillo: 704-358-6045; Twitter: @cbmcmillan
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