Local News

NCAA tournament gives bars a boost in recession

Posted March 19, 2009 9:03 p.m. EDT
Updated March 19, 2009 11:33 p.m. EDT

— The TVs lining sports bars and restaurants in downtown Raleigh act as bait, luring in basketball fans during the NCAA championship – a welcome boost to business during a recession.

"Game days are great, obviously," said Daren Birt, owner of Tobacco Road Sports Cafe on Glenwood Avenue. "It's really helps us out a lot."

Tobacco Road filled up quickly for tip-off of the first game of the tournament Thursday, and "it has been that way ever since," Birt said.

The situation was much the same down the road at Hi5.

"I wouldn't even be open for lunch right now if I didn't have these basketball games on, so I'm going to double my sales just today," Hi5 owner Alan Marks said.

These businesses have a lot of money riding on the tournament fortunes of fan favorites, such as UNC and Duke. The longer the local teams stay in, the more business from fans sports bars and restaurants score.

"I will also be very happy" if N.C. teams go far in the tournament, Marks said. "We will have a packed house for every one of those games."

Fans taking in the game at their favorite joint echoed that sentiment.

"We are hoping all the hard work pays off, and we get to watch five more games," basketball fan Emily Balog said. "It is nice to be out and just feel the activity and the excitement."

And some customers thought they were getting the best end of the bargain.

"This is a good deal, right here," said basketball fan Thom Wheeler, sitting in a recliner in front of big-screen TV at Tobacco Road.