Pokémon Players Aren’t Pumping Up Businesses

Grouping couches together, chilling racks of beer, lighting coals for the grill. These aren’t preparations for the neighborhood potluck. They’re what some people have done to get comfortable for playing hours of Pokémon Go on a downtown street corner.

While some stores are seeing an increase in foot traffic, that hasn’t translated into a similar increase in profitable business.

Much of Eugene’s Pokémon activity is concentrated around the Bier Stein on 16th and Willamette. That block has three PokéStops, making it a hotspot for catching the virtual creatures. PokéStops are real-world locales where players can collect items for game play.

“We have quite a few people using our bathroom,” says Kristina Measells, the Bier Stein’s owner. “We like the fact that people are out walking. Well, not really walking.”

Measells points out that a lot of Pokémon Go players, ironically, aren’t really going anywhere. “They put up camp chairs and put lights up in the trees,” she says. “They get very comfortable. We clocked someone, and he was out there for eight hours one day!”

Last Thursday, Aug. 4, at 10:30 at night, about 100 people milled around in small groups on all sides of 16th and Willamette. Player Nathanial Dylan Ray says he spends two to four hours there in the evenings after work. He says he likes that corner because of the concentrated activity — he’s seen 200 to 400 people there on weekends.

“The more Pokémon hunters in an area also seems to bring in more rare Pokémon, so that spot is perfect,” Ray says. “Three to four days of hunting that area you can have a Gyarados.”

Measells says the increase in business isn’t significant. Pat McCallum, owner of Mac’s at the Vet’s Club across the street, says the same. “Other than people laying out in our lawn, it hasn’t affected us,” he says. Mac’s offers half-off appetizers for players who catch something and show them, but he says he doesn’t think a single person has redeemed the deal.

Parking and litter is the biggest impact the game has had so far. Measells says police responded on a recent Saturday night to address the group that was grilling, and that their neighbors are losing parking spots in already-small lots to players who park and camp.

Out of respect, the Bier Stein has applied to be removed as a PokéStop, although Measells doesn’t know how long that process will take. “It’s just gotten a little crazy,” she says. “If we can get it down to just one Stop rather than three.” She adds, “We’re also a little scared that someone is going to get hit by a car.”

Ray, however, says he ordered food from the Bier Stein recently, and wouldn’t have gone there if it wasn’t for the Pokémon activity. “Never would have thought about trying them out if not for the lures and crowds of Pokémon trainers outside,” he says. He also noticed a few other restaurants in the immediate area he is looking forward to dining at soon.

Ray says the Bier Stein removing itself as a Stop is a “bad move,” and he’s not likely to go back there if that happens. That would be a “bummer” for the game, he says.

“I have not found any spots yet that are as good as 16th and Willamette,” Ray adds. “But I have heard of a bike path near campus being a great spot to hunt.”

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