By Drew Olson Special to Published Aug 16, 2007 at 5:34 AM

It's not always easy finding a seat a Miller Park these days, and the same can be said for the restaurants and bars near the facility.

The Brewers, who for the past few weeks have employed the unusual combination of prefixes "slumping" and "first-place," are averaging 35,000 fans per night and have racked up a franchise-record 24 sellouts.

As a result of the big crowds, business owners on nearby Bluemound Road have seen more traffic on the street and at the bar.  Churches and service stations are making money by parking cars. Restaurant owners are catching the pre-game crowd. 

And, at a time of year when bar owners face tough competition from Summerfest, State Fair, ethnic and church festivals, weddings and summer vacations, the Brewers have provided a steady stream of new customers.

"There is no question it has helped," said Pat Guenther, co-owner of Kelly's Bleachers, 5218 W. Bluemound Rd. "I've always thought that business attracts business. Winning breeds numbers and Milwaukee is a city that jumps on a winner."

Guenther estimates that business is up between 30 and 40 percent during Brewers homestands.

"On a weekend night, I can only put so many people in my bar," he said. "Our weekends are pretty busy, even when the Brewers are out of town. On a game night, though, it's guaranteed to go up."

Renee McNutt, the kitchen manager at Steve's on Bluemound, 5841 W. Bluemound Rd., agreed.

"It doesn't matter if it's a weeknight or weekend end, whenever they're playing we're getting good crowds," McNutt said. "Festivals always slow things down in the summer, but business has been steady during Brewers games.

"We're getting people who come from all over the state, not just Milwaukee. It's been a lot of fun."

Paul Wong, who owns Long Wong's Chinese-American Sports Bar and restaurant, 5230 W. Bluemound Rd., said the Brewers' success has helped his party business.

"We've seen an increase, not only in business at the bar but in pre-game parties," Wong said. "I have a couple of party rooms that I rent out and I've had a couple of large parties that I probably wouldn't have had without the Brewers."

Although the Bluemound bars lose some pre-game business to tailgate parties, some companies like US Bank have decided that it's more cost-effective to have a pre-game festivities at a bar rather than at the ballpark, where renting a tailgate space can cost up to $1,500.

"What I always tell people is that you don't have to worry about the weather at the games anymore (because of the roof at Miller Park)," Wong said. "But, you have to worry about the weather at a tailgate party, so it's better to have it inside."

Although he appreciates the added customer traffic, Wong said that being close to the ballpark did have a down side.

"In a way, the Brewers are a two-edged sword," he said. "They bring business in, but they also scare some people away. Sometimes, the people who want to come down for a party or a fish fry call in and ask "Is there a Brewers game that night?" I know what they're thinking. They're worried about the traffic and parking."

With road construction tearing up the street further west on Bluemound, traffic jams and parking shortages have been common this summer.

"We have a high school baseball banquet (Wednesday night) and it starts at 6," Wong said. "Someone called and said: "Why are they scheduling it on a night when the Brewers are playing?" I love having the Brewers, but they do take some business away."

In order to cater to Brewers fans, virtually all the bars on Bluemound offer shuttle service to and from the games, a practice that started with the "Slimousine," at Slim McGinn's, 5901 W. Bluemound.

Guenther upgraded his fan bus this season and Wong added a second shuttle. "That has really helped with the big corporate parties," he said. "Without that, I couldn't have gotten all those people to the ballpark."

Saz's State House, 5539 W. State St., has offered shuttle service for several seasons and has seen a boost in pre- and post-game business this season. Even bars farther from the ballpark, such as O'Brien's, 4928 W. Vliet St., have started running shuttles.

"For us, it was a no-brainer," said Patti Haas, a manager at O'Brien's. "We're getting tons of Brewer-related business, and it's tough to park around Bluemound, even to go to a bar and use the shuttle. There is a lot of parking around here, so for our neighborhood people and our regular customers, it made sense for us to do it."

 If the Brewers head into the playoffs, the bars can expect even more business. 

 "You have to cater to those fans," Guenther said. "We need to do is continue to promote baseball, even during the off-season, to get people thinking about it.

"Milwaukee is saturated with places to go. You've got to offer them something different or they'll go to a liquor store and drink at home."

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.