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Cup draws business Jon Campbell | Fri, Jun 18 2010 06:00 PM

The quadrennial World Cup soccer competition has descended on Chula Vista, and some area businesses are cashing in. As spectators gather to watch the action, with teams from virtually every country on the globe competing, a number of restaurants, bars and even a bank are holding viewing parties to attract fans eager to cheer on their team.

Stan Dale, one of the owners of La Bella's restaurant on Third Avenue, said the game had been a boost to revenue, estimating that game days bring a net increase of about 10 percent in the eatery's sales.

"When Mexico and the U.S. played, it did well ... it's been filling up the dining room," said Dale.

He said the results vary widely depending on which teams are on the field, and coordinating staff levels takes a certain finesse. Dale said the restaurant had scheduled two extra servers on Saturday when the Netherlands played Denmark.

"Big mistake. We had two people," Dale said. There were as many staff members as spectators, said Dale, so now the restaurant will pay closer attention to which games are likely to be popular.

Fickle fans are a problem for Frida Mexican Cuisine in Eastlake too, said manager Maria Delrio, who said the attempt to gather fans had been "not very good so far."

"Sometimes people," said Delrio, "Sometimes not." But when the fans do show, Delrio estimated about a 20 percent bump in business for the day.

There is a notable increase in interest in the games this time around, Dale said, when compared to the crowds in 2006, the last time the World Cup was held.

Dale's observation is in line with the numbers; soccer is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. The month-long tournament is expected to garner more American viewers this year than ever before. The first round match between the USA and England drew an estimated 14.5 million viewers on the Spanish language Univision network and ABC, according to the Nielsen ratings agency.

ESPN, the cable sports network, said it had about 4 million viewers, which amounts to a 75 to 80 percent increase over the games in 2006.

Vibra Bank in Chula Vista, which bills itself as a bi-cultural bank and markets heavily to the Latino community, is also getting in on the World Cup act, at least for one game. The bank plans to hold an open house for fans in the lobby of their Broadway location on Thursday for a game between Mexico and France. Scott Parker, the bank's president, said the tournament was a popular event around the office,so they decided to make a day of it. Parker said he hoped some new customers might be enticed to open an account, but they were also welcome simply to enjoy themselves.

"There's a lot of interest in the event ... we just thought it would be fun," Parker said.

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