by Clayton Noblit
It’s been another controversial week for the NFL. But, that’s unlikely to affect the crowds who turn out at restaurants and bars to watch their teams. Just how much do local businesses count on football fans to keep their doors open?
In almost any town in America you can find a bar or restaurant where you can watch sports. Here in Chapel Hill it’s no different. These businesses rely on athletics to keep themselves afloat. For many, one sport in particular carries most of the load.
Don Evers, Manager at Time-Out restaurant in Chapel Hill, says without a doubt it’s Football.
“NFL Sundays here, NFL Thursday nights are big food, big drink nights,” Evers said. It’s something we try to plan for. We try to gear ourselves up for that business.”
Evers says that he relies on football and basketball seasons to make through what he calls the “summer lull.” The multi-billion dollar industry of professional football reaches far from the actual games. Many sports bars hire extra employees during football season to keep up with demand.
“My name is Keith Spaswell, general manager of Bailey’s Pub and Grill in Chapel Hill.”
Spaswell says without the NFL, his restaurant and many like it wouldn’t be open.
“No, I do not think we would exist,” Spaswell said. “I mean, think of how many business the NFL affects. The amount of marketing, the amount of money that’s made just off football is crazy.
“You know, ticket sales, stadiums wouldn’t exist. Businesses that surround the stadiums wouldn’t exist. I don’t know if a sports bar would be a sports bar. We do get a lot of pull from college basketball, but not the pull we get from football.”
For Spaswell, football’s popularity pays off even before the games have started.
“We do fantasy football draft parties,” Spaswell said. “We offer fifty dollar incentives for the group to come in. It’s kind of a discount they get. We have a loyalty program. It’s $150 in rewards to come sit with us, open your laptops, get some food and drink some beers.”
But it’s not just the promotions that that help draw in fans. For Tanner Barcus, a senior at Carolina, the restaurants offer something watching at home doesn’t.
“The atmosphere is the biggest thing,” Barcus said. “Being around other fans of the team makes it more exciting when the team does well. If, heaven forbid, the team does poorly, there’s also people right there with you to commiserate with.”
Evers says that he has seen fans of almost all NFL teams in Time-Out, regardless of how their team is doing. And, he says in years when UNC’s basketball team is playing well, college basketball helps lessen the blow of the offseason.
“We’re looking forward from now until April,” Evers said. “That’s when we make our money. That’s what keeps us here.”