August 4, 2022

Sports bars start to rebound from 2020 | First

A modest crowd watches a Monday night football game at Tony’s Downtown Bar, which is seeing attendance at around 75% of pre-pandemic levels. Despite lingering supply chain and personnel issues – and the ongoing pandemic – business is picking up steam at sports bars in El Paso County.

At Tony’s Downtown Bar on North Tejon Street, the afternoon crowds drink pints of Pabst Blue Ribbon from the long bar and the tangy flavor of bison sauce wafts through the air. But you won’t find it on the wings – just the chicken strips.

“The wings are through the roof! Five years ago, a 40-pound box of wings cost maybe $ 60, and now it costs around $ 180, ”said owner Eel Anderson.

While there are lingering supply chain and personnel issues, Anderson says his crowds are steadily increasing and estimates they are around 75% of pre-pandemic levels.

Business continues to gain momentum at sports bars in El Paso County, as college football and Big Four sports draw crowds to taverns no longer facing pandemic restrictions .

“We didn’t know what to think last year. … You have so many people [who were] excited to be back in public and socializing with people, while the other half was still thinking, “Hey, this is a super-broadcaster event, I’m staying away,” Anderson said.

“Until there [this year], we see more people. This is one of my nightmare times of the year, because even though we have 14 TVs, it’s still a struggle over what to put on the main, with volume.

Football and hockey are Tony’s main draws, and while some clients encourage Anderson to host UFC events, he doesn’t consider the risk to be worth it. “I’m not showing UFC fights. It’s expensive for me to show it, and I never want to charge for blanket here, ”he said. “It’s a bunch of testosterone – pair that with alcohol, it’s a recipe for a hurricane.

“And the NFL [Sunday] Ticket? The sacred cow. With my occupation here this year it cost me $ 8,350. It is increasing every year. … Is it worth it? Who knows, but it’s fun.

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Sports bars are making a comeback, but staffing issues are slowing the rebound.

Staffing is a struggle – many sports bars are either still understaffed or just reverting to full staff after months of shortages.

“Absolutely, we are living this [staffing] problem, ”Anderson said. “I have a whole bunch of new bartenders right now, trying to train them all.”

“If you came in last month and applied, you got the job,” added bartender Lee Wilson.

On West Colorado Avenue in Old Colorado City, Thunder & Buttons flourished. The bar posted record profits in June, July and August before stabilizing a bit in September with the start of the school year.

“It has been a murderous year and we hope to see it continue,” said owner Luke Barfield. “Last year we had a strong Halloween, then they shut us down in November. I don’t agree with everything that was going on, the government’s overbreadth. If you’re worried about poor health, stay home and do something else.

While there were a few staff issues, Barfield was luckier than most, which he attributes to creating a positive work culture, as well as offering various incentives.

“We had such good sales [during the summer], I gave everyone in the back of the house $ 150 per pay period if they were working overtime at any time, ”he said. “I was rewarding people who worked, not sitting at home to receive free paychecks. So if you work overtime you get a bonus.

Barfield added an extra to each ticket – for food and alcohol – by dividing that extra money among all employees in each pay period. “For the back of the house, they earn an average of $ 85 to $ 90 more per pay period,” he said. “So when they’re busy and stressed, they know they’re going to get a bigger paycheck. … Some people may pay more, but maybe their [work] culture sucks.

While the crowds for the games were solid, karaoke three nights a week was a bigger draw for Barfield.

“I’m not paying for this match day ticket. … It’s too much – it takes a lot to break even. … People here are more likely to come hang out and do karaoke, rather than come and sit for four hours and drink only two beers, ”said Barfield.

To the south, at Rookies Taphouse in Fountain, things have really gotten better with the football going on.

“We now have football three nights a week, and that increases sales,” said manager Seanna Womack.

Rookies have done business with deals like five beers for $ 15, events like Tuesday Night Trivia, cornhole tournaments with bar tabs as prizes, and live music.

“We could also have a monopoly on sports bars in Fountain,” Womack added.

A sign posted at the entrance announces the need for more kitchen staff.

“We are short of kitchen staff and the owner has increased the salary,” Womack said.

In East Colorado Springs, Rhino’s Sports & Spirits is also very busy. “We have excelled… well above our expectations,” said Stephen Pollard, co-owner and general manager.

The competition to lure sports fans into the gates is tough, but Rhino’s has carved out its own following for itself.

“We have some big [competitors] which are corporate sports bars, like Bubba’s further down… but being a local bar owned by the military, we do pretty well on our own, ”Pollard said.

He said staffing has been a constant issue for just over a year and the bar has only recently been able to return to open seven days a week with normal hours of service.

“Getting a full staff has been a major problem,” he said. “I definitely had to increase salaries to have cooks. “

On Sundays, Rhino’s raffles “thousands of dollars in trips to [Las] Vegas, Mexico signed jerseys, all kinds of stuff, ”Pollard said, but credits the grilled patio with credit for helping the pub through the lean times of the start of the pandemic.

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Tony’s downtown bar attracts about 75% of the customers it had before COVID.

“Our covered and heated patio saved us a few months – back in the days when there were only patio seating, we had a lot more customers because of that aspect,” he said.

Bar owners are also optimistic that Halloween weekend will be very important, especially at Tony’s Downtown Bar, with Colorado College Tigers Hockey playing Air Force on Saturday night a few blocks away. “This new hockey arena down the street was a huge draw before and after games,” said Anderson.

For his part, Anderson is quite optimistic about the future.

“People always ask me: is it stressful? ” he said. ” Nope. If you’ve been in this business long enough, you take the punches – and you know how to get knocked down, then get back up.