WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Mohegan Sun Arena's plans to open an in-house restaurant have some nearby eateries predicting their profits will be sliced.
Armand Mascioli, one of the owners of Grotto Pizza, which has a restaurant less than a mile from the arena, said there's no doubt the facility has been good for his business and dozens of others.
But when he heard the plans for a 20,000-square-foot addition to be built to offer dining options to people attending events at the arena, his heart sunk.
"It's going to be a major impact to all of the local restaurants, not just us," Mascioli said.
His was one of the few restaurants within a mile of the arena that was established long before the venue was built 13 years ago. He said others have made huge investments opening restaurants knowing that the arena did not have much by way of restaurants or bars to attract fans pre and post event.
"A lot of people built those restaurants around that opportunity and made large investments," Mascioli said. While he appreciates what the arena has done for the area, he said he wishes it wasn't going this route.
"The arena's been very good to all of us, but now they're trying to take a chunk of the business back," he said.
Specifics about what kind of eatery the officials are looking for were not discussed when the plans were announced for the first time publicly last week.
Linda Deckard, publisher and editor-in-chief of Venues Today magazine, told The Times Leader a restaurant likely would have a local connection.
"It's going to be something that screams Wilkes-Barre," she said.
That sort of a local eatery entering a sports venue model was unsuccessful in one case.
Bo Brothers, a Wyoming-based pizza, wings and barbecue restaurant, operated inside PNC Field in Moosic but pulled out in less than a year, citing a lack of business on days when the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees weren't playing a home game and in the offseason.
Efforts to reach Bo Brothers' owner James Ruby to see if he would have an interest in opening an arena location, were unsuccessful Monday.
People attending games, concerts and other events now can be found before and afterwards at national franchise restaurants such as Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Red Robin, Chili's, Outback Steakhouse or Smokey Bones and locally owned favorites such as Grotto Pizza, Lucky's Sporthouse and Arena Bar and Grill. All are located within a short drive of the arena.
Rich Jeffers, a corporate spokesman for Darden Restaurants, which owns Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and other chain restaurants, said he wasn't sure what impact an arena eatery would have on business, but he praised the arena as a business generator.
"It generates traffic and that's good for business," Jeffers said.
Metz Culinary Management, based in Dallas, operates Lucky's Sporthouse in Wilkes-Barre Township, Ruth's Chris Steak House and Wolfgang Puck, both at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Casino in Plains Township, and T.G.I. Friday's in Wilkes-Barre. It also operates dining facilities at area schools, colleges and companies.
Of all the local food operators, Metz would seem to have an inside track on having interest in operating a restaurant inside the arena.
However, Maureen Gallagher, Metz's vice president of marketing, had no comment Monday and said the person in the company who could talk about the arena restaurant was unavailable for comment.