Fans of the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball aren’t just missing from the stadiums and arenas this year. They are also missing from tens of thousands of sports bars who may have to close permanently due to the the pandemic keeping fans at home and away from potential crowds, according to The Athletic.
According to food service industry analysts and consultants Technomic Inc. there were 95,000 total bars and sports bars and grills at the end of 2019. By the end of 2020 that number is expected to go down to 66,000.
“Bars are expected to be down about 50 percent in terms of total revenue this year. The sports bar and grill sector is probably down about 40 percent,” said Joe Pawlak, managing principal at Technomic. “People are very uncomfortable sitting inside a restaurant even with a limited capacity. It’s been a struggle for the overall sports bar and grill segments. COVID has just put an anvil on the entire industry.”
With no vaccine yet available, companies like Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, which sponsors a college bowl game, are still unable to fully reopen many locations.
FSRmagazine.com spoke to Beef ‘O’ Brady’s CEO Chris Elliott back in April and at that time the company’s financial models were based on dining rooms reopening in June.
That still hasn’t happened.
For bar and grill chains like Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, a year without football weekends would be nothing short of catastrophic. Especially compounded with this spring’s setback.
“Hopefully by the end of the year there’s a vaccine or there’s effective treatments,” Elliott says. “And there’s testing more widely available with quick results. If you have those three things, I think we’ll get back to normal way faster. But I think it’s going to be touch and go until there a vaccine, until there’s a more effective treatment. There’s essentially no treatment right now.”
Well, there is football, but there also is still “essentially no treatment right now.”
As it stands right now, sports bars are banking on two things: the elusive coronavirus vaccine, and mulitple states recently implementing legal sports wagering.
“Gambling has potential to bring people back in,” said Pawlak.
However, he also added, “What’s going to turn things around is when we have a vaccine. That’s when people will feel comfortable going back to sports bars.”
And everywhere else.