Buffett means bucks for Southland
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org June 28, 2012 8:52PM
Jimmy Buffett. | AP file photo
Updated: July 30, 2012 6:26AM
It will be 5 o’clock everywhere in the Southland this weekend with Jimmy Buffett bringing his Coral Reefer Band to town for a single Saturday night show at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park.
Throngs of “Parrotheads” are expected to swoop into the area and create an economic boon for the region — if only for a weekend.
Hotels are nearing capacity and restaurants are bringing on extra staff and staying open later to accommodate the fans.
Dollar-wise, Buffett’s “Lounging at the Lagoon” show could generate $1 million-plus in revenues for Tinley Park and the surrounding region, according to Jim Garrett, president and CEO of the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau. It could be “substantially more” as the concert attracts fans from throughout the Midwest who will sleep, eat, gas up and buy tailgating supplies in the Southland from Friday through Sunday, he said.
“Hotels are the major benefactors, and also restaurants,” he said.
Hotels in Tinley Park, Orland Park, Oak Forest, Crestwood and Oak Lawn are nearly sold out, Garrett said.
“There is a certain amount of financial gain,” said Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki, who plans to attend the concert as “an observer.” The village also collects an amusement tax on every ticket sold.
Concerts are also an opportunity to showcase the area.
“People will get to know the area better and want to come back,” Zabrocki said. “It should be a big weekend. We’re excited about it. This will probably be the biggest concert of the year.”
Some businesses are capitalizing on the beach party event and devising their own versions of “Margaritaville” so everyone can experience Buffett’s change in latitude and attitude.
Vito and Nick’s Pizza, 7020 W. 183rd St., gave away two concert tickets, and the Baymont Inn & Suites, 12801 S. Cicero Ave. in Alsip, decorates its lobby with a beach theme.
“We filled up a couple of months ago,” Baymont general manager Candace Fransen said.
Parrotheads began booking rooms as soon as tickets went on sale.
In keeping with a three-year tradition, the Oak Lawn Hilton will host its Jimmy Buffett Fest — which is open to the public — from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday in its front parking lot, 9333 S. Cicero Ave. For a $5 cover, which is donated to Relay for Life, folks can enjoy music by the Parrot Troupers. There will be margaritas, beer, cheeseburgers and Chicago hot dogs, along with raffles and games.
“We’re expecting 400 people. Many people dress up in grass skirts and Hawaiian shirts,” said Lori Jadzak, director of sales and marketing. “It’s a good crowd.”
Odyssey Sweet Spot Sports Bar will take advantage of the traffic in front of its establishment at 19110 S. Oak Park Ave., which is within walking distance of the amphitheater. General manager Clint Paraday said the bar is hosting a “Life’s a Beach Party” with musician Dave Rudolph performing from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday to make it “more appealing to fans.”
“It will be a tailgate atmosphere,” he said, with margaritas and Coronas, bean bags and beer pong games and no cover charge.
Paraday wanted to offer a spot where folks could “hang out and have a good time,” he said. He will allow concert-goers to park in his lot and walk to Buffett’s concert, and will stay open until 3 a.m.
The sports bar has hosted similar events when the amphitheater hosts country bands, but this is its first Parrothead party, he said.
The Tinley Park Convention Center originally planned a similar event, but feared it would “get out of hand” and leave no room for their other patrons, Zabrocki said.
Some Tinley Park businesses were not operating the last time Buffett took the stage in Tinley Park in July 2007, so they aren’t sure what to expect.
Vito and Nicks II typically hosts concert-goers, but this weekend, owner Rich Chearo is expecting a bigger crowd than usual. He will offer $2 domestic bottles of beer all day Saturday and be ready to feed the hungry fans until 2 a.m.
John McAuliffe, of Durbins, 17265 Oak Park Ave., said, “We usually get a nice crowd before and after the concerts. But I don’t know what to expect with the tailgating,” which the amphitheater is allowing and which could keep some folks hanging out in the parking lot.
Durbins also will stay open later and expects to have a lot of deliveries to area hotels.
“I hope to do well,” McAuliffe said.
Tinley Park Police Chief Steve Neubauer said he expects about 26,000 concert-goers — a number that could increase given that tickets still were on sale Thursday afternoon. His biggest concerns are the heat and traffic. He urged concert-goers to “stay hydrated” and those who aren’t attending the concert to “stay away.”