An hour or more before last call, when the last subway trains roll through Government Center, the Friday and Saturday night crowds of diners, drinkers, and partiers thin noticeably.
Nick Ruggiero, manager of Anthem Kitchen and Bar, said he doesn’t even have to look at the clock to know that the MBTA witching hour of 12:30 a.m. has struck — he just watches customers stream out the door.
“You can definitely feel a shift in Faneuil Hall when people have to get the T,” said Ruggiero. “There are definitely less people walking around and looking for late night food and drink options.”
Anthem Kitchen and Bar is among the many late-night spots in Boston that hope to get a bump in business from the recent decision by the MBTA to extend service until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, beginning next spring. The move is aimed at making the city more appealing to young professionals, considered critical to the workforces of technology, biotechnology, and other industries and vital to the future of the region’s innovation economy.
Anthem caters to young professionals at financial firms and technology startups in the downtown area who, after long days and weeks at work, want to enjoy the nightlife, Ruggiero said. He hopes more of his customers will stay until the 2 a.m. closing when the T runs later and not have to worry about saving money for the ride home.
“It’s nice to not have to be chained to your pumpkin carriage,” Ruggiero said.
John Gertsen, general manager of Drink, a bar and restaurant in the Fort Point neighborhood of South Boston, said he is excited not just to see a boost in customers, but for his employees to have reliable rides home.
Employees regularly spend more than $20 trying to get home, the $2 fare is pocket change in comparison.
“A lot of people who are just starting out, bar backs and wait staff, really can’t afford to take a cab home every night,” Gertsen said.
Taxis and similar services say they could lose some business from the more determined partiers who currently remain at late-night spots after the T stops running.
Hailo, a Boston-based service that allows customers to summon cabs via a mobile app, recently compared usage in Boston, London, Chicago, Dublin, and Toronto.
The comparison found a larger jump in weekend business between 1. a.m. and 2 a.m. in Boston than in the other cities, which have transit systems with later hours.
Vanessa Kafka, general manager of Hailo, said she expects there will still be plenty of business for cabs after the T starts running later.
Often, she said, there are more customers than available cabs in the wee hours of weekend nights, and extended transit service could make it easier for drivers and people trying to hail cabs.
“Taxi drivers, if you ask them about their experiences on Friday and Saturday night, they’ll always have crazy stories about people launching in front of the taxi trying to flag them down, banging on the cab, yelling,” said Kafka. “The people who take cabs aren’t going to disappear.”
Cab or train, Gertsen expects the added options to be good for his establishment in the long run, though he was hesitant to say how much extra business he expects.
“A lot of people do tend to go out and spend more money when they know they have a safe ride home,” Gertsen said.