Sparky’s Roadside Barbecue, a downtown lunch favorite, is usually slow at the dinner hour. Now that the Miami Heat has advanced to the NBA Finals, though, it’s serving 50 on game nights.
As the team plows through the finals, its success is spilling over to other local businesses, from sports bars to hotels.
Jim Flanigan, owner of Flanigan’s Seafood Bar and Grill and a sports fan haven, said his Miami-Dade County locations have all seen substantial growth — between 5 percent and 10 percent on game days, representing revenues of between $5,000 and $10,000 a week. “I wish it was a best-of-21 series,” Flanigan said.
Sparky’s co-owner Kevin Kehoe said new customers are finding him through online review sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp, which recommended the restaurant based on its location mere blocks from AmericanAirlines Arena and its selection of barbecue. Subsequent word of mouth has brought Sparky’s new clients. “Someone will come in the next day and bring in more of their friends,” Kehoe said. “It’s really great.”
Other downtown restaurants are also enjoying a game-day boost. Located on the Miami River in the Epic Hotel, Zuma is close enough to lure diners but far away from the traffic jams around AmericanAirlines Arena, said Lizzy Maynes, the restaurant’s events and marketing manager. As one of the city’s hottest restaurants, the Japanese eatery is always busy, but during recent games the number of reservations has doubled, Maynes said. Most of the clients pouring in are regulars, but Heat stars — including LeBron James, Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh — frequently drop in post-game.
The Heat’s performance has also helped Best of the Rest Stars raise money for its youth workshops on leadership skills and money management.
This year, proceeds from a new collage by Coconut Grove artist Erika King portraying NBA basketball stars go to the nonprofit. Sixty NBA players have signed the commemorative piece, including James and Wade. The work, titled NBA Legends of Basketball — We Made This Game
and valued at $25,000, is on display at City National Bank of Florida’s 1450 Brickell Ave. branch.
Tourism officials are expecting the team’s halo effect to keep filling hotels. The Finals — shown in more than 200 countries and in 47 languages — have racked up 47.4 million viewers in the United States alone, said William Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Aerial views of the city shown frequently during game broadcasts are “a virtual infomercial for Miami.”
“I can’t buy three top shows on network television,” Talbert said. “I don’t have enough money for this priceless coverage.”