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Since casino opening, restaurants enjoying later business

September 17, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — It was long past closing time at Raices Restaurant, 1021 Main St., but customers kept coming in.

MGM Springfield was celebrating its grand opening weekend in the new $960 million casino just across the street.

Visitors, fueled by a Dropkick Murphys performance or just drawn in by the general excitement, were hungry. Raices owner Vivianaelys Bones said she and her staff just kept feeding them that night, Aug. 25.

“We had a lot of customers. A lot of new customers from other cities. They loved our food. It was great,” she said.

For now at least, Raices’ old 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday closing time is pushed back to 10 p.m. She plans to still close earlier on weeknights and still close one day a week, on Sunday.

“We’re still experimenting,” she said.

Now that rush of opening weekend has faded.

“We have our good days and we have our medium days,” she said. “Not as crazy as we thought it was going to be.”

There seems to be a lot of cautious optimism among restaurant owners in Springfield’s downtown. The casino is both an attraction — it drew more than 150,000 visitors in the first three days by MGM’s estimates — and competition.

MGM designed the casino complex to face out into the street and make visitors feel connected to downtown. But the facility has several of its own eateries: the Cal Mare coastal Italian restaurant, Chandler Steakhouse and the South End Market food hall.

Nadim Kashouh, owner of Nadim’s Downtown Mediterranean Grill, 1390 Main St., said the big crowds over opening weekend made for long lines for food and sent casino customers off exploring downtown.

“So there are a lot of people walking around the city,” he said.

Kashouh said he’s surprised to see people on the street looking for a restaurant after 11 p.m.

“That is not typical for us,” he said.

On the first Friday night, he had his staff lock the doors at 11:50 p.m. The restaurant normally closes at 11.

“We were running out of food,” he said. “The staff was exhausted. It’d been a long day.”

But now that he knows there is a need, he’s experimenting with being open until midnight. And he might not stop there.

“If it is going to 1 a.m., I’m willing to do that as long as there are people walking through the doors,” Kashouh said.

Red Rose Pizzeria, 1060 Main St., was busy but didn’t break any records, said owner Tony Caputo. Red Rose was already open until 11 on weekends.

He said dine-in business was busier than normal, more than offsetting a dip in take-out orders. He said customers might have been worried about traffic.

“We have 500 seats,” he said. “We’ve been doing this a long time. We can move people in and out.”

MGM did a good job with parking, he said. There was space in his lot for his customers. He was afraid MGM customers would park there.

Managing partner Andy Yee said business was steady at The Student Prince Cafe and The Fort Dining Room, 8 Fort St.

“We are kind of removed, down at the other end of main street. I know we are coming into our busy season now,” he said.

That includes the Wurst Haus the restaurant runs at The Big E, followed by Oktoberfest, which leads into Thanksgiving eve, the biggest night in the restaurant’s calendar, Yee said.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2QDRHtp

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Information from: The Springfield (Mass.) Republican, http://www.masslive.com/news/

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