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Near Fenway, no magic numbers

Businesses share pain of Sox’ losses

Elwin La Pietra looked for a Dustin Pedroia jersey at the Red Sox Team Store on Yawkey Way early this month. Elwin La Pietra looked for a Dustin Pedroia jersey at the Red Sox Team Store on Yawkey Way early this month. (Wendy Maeda/ Globe Staff)
By Megan Woolhouse
Globe Staff / September 28, 2010

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Long before the Red Sox reached the brink of elimination from postseason play, there was a sign the end was near: A parking spot in lots near Fenway Park was only $20, discounted from the usual $35 or more.

“I’ve never, ever, seen that before,’’ said season ticket holder Warren Downie before a recent game.

As the prospects of even a wild-card berth in the playoffs slipped away in the last month, revenue for restaurants, shops, and vendors around Fenway also slumped. For each postseason game not played, businesses collectively lose an estimated $2.5 million, according to the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. For World Series games, it’s double that.

This would be only the second year since 2003 that businesses surrounding the ballpark have no vested interest in the playoffs. The Red Sox regular season will end at home Sunday against the playoff-bound New York Yankees in what the schedule-makers surely had hoped would be a super-charged finale.

The team’s slide into oblivion has been a slow one, however, allowing time for both fans and businesses to gradually come to terms with the disappointment.

“There’s a feeling of going through the motions on game days,’’ said Garrett Harker, owner of the Eastern Standard restaurant on Commonwealth Avenue. Lately, burgers and beers have ruled, Harker said, with fewer patrons opting for ribeye steaks and fine wine.

“We’re seeing a crowd that’s more casual, more happy to have a night out,’’ he said. “What you lose is maybe that corporate white-collar crowd; they fade away a little bit.’’

Steve DiFillippo, owner of Davio’s at Arlington Street in Park Square, called this year’s truncated season “a bummer.’’ His restaurant has been a popular haunt for opposing teams. Former Yankees manager Joe Torre was a regular, and Derek Jeter has been known to stop in for pregame chicken parmigiana.

At Copperfield’s Bar on Brookline Avenue, the tourist crowd has dwindled as the team’s prospects have dimmed. General manager Bill Crowley said that compounds the misery of staffers, many of whom not only are fans, but rely on tips.

“For us, it’s a real double-whammy,’’ Crowley said.

Others with a vested interest in the ripple effects of the Red Sox economy are coping by turning their attention to a team in a three-way tie for first place: the New England Patriots. Pat Moscaritolo, chief executive of the convention and visitors bureau, said the lackluster baseball season has made his home life more harmonious.

“My wife is first and foremost a Patriots fan,’’ Moscaritolo said. “So at least we don’t fight over the remote.’’

Although the postseason money has been a welcome boost for the city, its absence certainly won’t drive the local economy into another recession, according to economist Nick Perna, an adviser to Webster Bank in Connecticut. Given the modest numbers, he said, postseason play might be more of a psychological balm than economic stimulus.

Perna recalled the punch line of an old joke about the difference between a hot dog sold outside Yankee Stadium and one sold outside Fenway: You can still get one in New York come October.

“At least this season gives life to old jokes,’’ he said.

Red Sox officials did not respond to requests for information about how the team’s revenues might be affected by a lack of playoff games. In the past, the team has said postseason play is not a windfall because of the expenses of ballpark operations, hotel rooms, and other factors. (The Globe’s parent corporation, The New York Times Co., owns about 17 percent of the Sox.)

Despite the threat of an untimely ending to the season, business outside the park has not dropped off altogether.

On a recent weekday, a group of tourists from Spain flooded the Souvenir Store on Yawkey Way. They happily discovered a rack stocked with dozens of jerseys bearing pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka’s name. Alvaro Nunez, 17, said he was not familiar with Matsuzaka but bought a shirt because it was half-price.

Marcus Ortiz, visiting from Arizona, bought a David Ortiz shirt for his daughter because she shares the same last name with the designated hitter.

A Dustin Pedroia jersey is one of the top sellers, said Brian Maurer, general manager of the shop, which is operated by Twins Enterprises Inc.

Maurer said Pedroia’s popularity seems to sum up the season. “He is the face of the franchise,’’ Maurer said, “and he’s injured.’’

Megan Woolhouse can be reached at mwoolhouse@globe.com.