The boom in sales surrounding the Madison Halloween weekend is one of the largest moneymakers of the year, according to Jill Lundberg, business improvement district manager for Downtown Madison, Inc.
“It’s a huge weekend for many downtown businesses,” Lundberg said. “The customers coming down aren’t always college-aged students, either.”
Lundberg, a member of the 2004 Halloween Committee, said several businesses have told her they do not want the Halloween weekend to disappear because it is such a big business weekend.
“I think one of the things, not necessarily negative, is that some businesses worry,” Lundberg said. “They want to know if they are prepared, and if they can handle the energy. It’s an alcohol-filled atmosphere, and retailers want to know if they’re ready.”
John Williamson, manager and owner of Sportsworld on State Street, said Halloween weekend is a big sales weekend — but not necessarily the biggest. Williamson said he does not prepare or stock more for the weekend because his business does not depend solely on Halloween.
“Weather controls [my store] a lot more than Halloween does,” Williamson said. “When you deal with weather goods like coats, you depend more on the weather.”
Williamson joked a cold Halloween is a good Halloween for his business.
Other downtown establishments agreed the Halloween hubbub does affect business in a positive way, but is a hassle in itself.
“It’s basically like having a football weekend,” Jeff Mackesey, facilities manager of the Irish Pub, 317 State St., said.
Mackesey said he expects an increase in out-of-towners and business, but the whole weekend itself is more of a handful.
“There have to be so many changes [for the weekend] and we have to pull extra people in who only occasionally work,” Mackesey said. “It’s not a profit loss, but you’re sure happy to have it over with.”
Mackesey said his Halloween night is run more like the military because of personal concerns, rioting and out-of-towners that generally do not care about their possible negative impact on the city and local businesses.
“It’s not a loss unless your property is damaged,” Mackesey said. “But afterwards you feel like it doesn’t matter how much it was worth.”
Other downtown establishments agreed getting through the weekend without significant problems is a good business weekend.
“There’s a lot more we have to do [for Halloween]. You have to make sure things like trash cans and chairs are put away,” Danny Keegan, an employee at Amy’s Café, said. “Things you normally don’t have to worry about you have to worry about because of riots and drunks.”
According to Keegan, primarily college students staff Amy’s Café, and most of the employees grow out of Halloween hype. Keegan, who graduated from UW last May, said the crowds and the rioting are something he does not enjoy being a part of or working under.
However, the weekend festivities do contribute to an increase in business at Amy’s, which serves as both a restaurant and a bar.
“Anytime there’s [a] huge influx of people, there’s a big sale weekend,” Keegan said. “But Halloween is like any other big football weekend or like this weekend’s 20-K run.”
Lundberg said she is especially optimistic for this year’s Halloween festivities. Madison police, UW officials and student government have had an extensive hand in the planning process this year, an attribute different from years past.
“I think we’re prepared as can be for this event. [Halloween] just happens. Invitations aren’t sent out,” Lundberg said.
Police will utilize the University Inn as temporary headquarters because it was the epicenter of the riots that occurred on State Street in 2002 and 2003. The hotel has agreed to close to guests over the weekend and allow police officers to use the buildings due to property damage in the area.
Lundberg said beer and liquor stores are stepping up to the plate and agreeing to restrict the sale of glassware. The greater State Street area will be glass-free during the events.
“I feel [the city] is prepared and that is a really important part,” Lundberg said.