From MariAn Gail Brown, CT Post:
Paul Carroccio will put 178.8 miles under his wheels today, driving from Vermont to Bridgeport to see Neil Young at the Webster Bank Arena.
Road trips are part of Americana, and Carroccio admits he’s addicted to Young’s music, always has been, and as soon as he heard tickets were going on sale for Young’s North American tour with Crazy Horse and Patti Smith, he was sold.
The first thing he did was phone a friend who works in Bridgeport and demand he purchase four tickets for each of them and their wives. Then Carroccio made sure he had reservations.
After all, the last thing out-of-town concertgoers want to do after they’ve plunked down big bucks for tickets, traveled close to four hours (if there’s no traffic), is to arrive hungry and not knowing where to go for a good meal or drink before the show.
Carroccio’s name is but one of dozens of names in Ashleigh Bella’s reservation book at the Barnum Publick House in downtown Bridgeport.
“Our business always goes up when there’s a big name at the Arena,” Bella says. How much? “From the way things look so far, with our reservations, for a Tuesday night, our business will be up at least 70 percent. So, we’re doubling our staff with two extra servers, an extra bartender and an extra hostess.”
A check through the reservation log shows a lot of names of Barnum Publick House patrons with out-of-state area codes from New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York and even Maryland.
A few blocks away, at Two Boots, Roberta Pettit, general manager of the Cajun/Italian restaurant named after the boot of Louisiana and Italy, says customers with tickets to the concert and those wishing they had a set will be treated to nonstop Young and Smith music piped through the restaurant all day and well into the evening, even after the concert ends.
“We’ve put together a playlist of their songs to dine by,” Pettit says, and “since we’re a Cajun-influenced place, every Tuesday is always Fat Tuesday, so we’ll have half priced jambalayas with spicy andouille sausage, creole marinated chicken and tasso, which is a Cajun ham. And drinks will be half price, too.”
When Cirque De Soleil was in town, the restaurant catered to the company’s work crew, sending over platters of jambalayas. In honor of Young’s appearance in Bridgeport, Pettit says, she’s working on a special drink with Too Boots’ bartender Kim DeAcutis.
“We’re going to call it the ‘Cinnamon Girl’ martini” Pettit says, adding that it will be something refreshing, wintry that makes you think of the holidays and gives you a feeling of “being upbeat” for the season,” Pettit says. “It ought to be something obviously with cinnamon in it, cinnamon schnapps, Bailey’s [Ice Cream] and either rum or vodka.”
Hugo Marin inhales the aroma.
“It smells like a delicious oatmeal cookie,” he says. “This is very good,” he says, after a couple of sips. “It’s smooth, easy going. You don’t taste the alcohol in it.”
Tom Ammon, an expert on the design of high-end timepieces, from the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, who is seated next to Marin at Too Boots wishes he had tickets to see Young and Smith.
“I wanted to go, and I did try to get tickets,” Ammon says. “This being the holiday season, I’m working seven days a week and there’s no way I could make that concert in time.”
High profile concerts like Young and Rush (which by the way, backed up traffic on Interstate 95 in both directions as well as the Route 8/25 almost to Bridgeport’s town line with Trumbull) have an upside for Bridgeport.
“They bring more people into downtown. It brings more people here for dinner and to spend money,” Ammon says. “It’s one of the smart things that you see Bridgeport doing as it gentrifies, which is bringing more affluent people here to see the upsides of this city, the culture amenities.”
Michael Moore, president of the Downtown Special Services District, which is funded by a tax assessment paid by merchants in Bridgeport’s hub, says that while it’s difficult to quantify in dollars how much business goes up when there’s a big act at the Arena at Harbor Yard, his organization believes “there’s a visible difference” in downtown Bridgeport.
“The amount of foot traffic increases throughout the downtown. And the faces you see, they aren’t the regular faces and they aren’t people who know what’s where in the downtown,” Moore says. For that reason, starting last February, the DSSD enlisted “ambassadors” volunteers “who act as guides directing people to and from parking areas, to restaurants and to the Arena if they are headed there on foot.”