'Tisn't the Season

Bars, restaurants take divergent paths through dismal fall

Restaurants and bars are cognizant of this year's turbulence and its effect on consumers. "People are looking to stretch their dollar more--looking for specials, bargain-hunting a bit," DeMarco states. "We're offering $2 Tuesdays (anything is $2), free games, free pool, free jukebox and $1 drafts on Wednesdays, buy one get one free food deals, stuff like that." Other establishments also examined cost-cutting as a way to invigorate business after September 11. "Early in October we did a full cost analysis," says Slaughter at the Firehouse. "We cut brunch menu prices and redid the wine menu, cutting prices by $5 to $12. We have an $18 bottle of wine. I've never had an $18 bottle on the menu before."

"I can't affect the economy," Kelly adds. "The only thing I can affect is the quality of food and service. We try to give guests a little bit more at this time."

Local restaurateurs prefer not to wallow in the recent past. The new year, and the promise of a recovery, looms ahead as long as they can tread water. "People are still dining out," Bondy points out. "But fine dining is taking a hit. Monica's is better than ever because of the drinking crowd. [At Ciudad] we've been hanging in there."

At least publicly, then, most people in the industry express cautious optimism. Some like Steve Kelly, however, prefer full-blown optimism.

"We'll all bounce back."

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