Mar 20, 2020 - Sports

Sports bars are struggling due to coronavirus closures

Illustration of pool balls in the shape of a frown

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Days like these can demand the comfort of a sports bar, but even those are shut down in many cities.

Axios spoke with two sports bar owners on opposite coasts about how they're navigating these uncertain times.

San Francisco: Axios spoke with Neil Holbrook, part-owner of the San Francisco Athletic Club, which opened in 2014 and features 28 TVs, a pool table and delicious bar food.

  • On the poor timing: "Being a sports bar is very seasonal. During the lean winter months, we just have to make it through. But come March, that's where we start to actually make some profit. With St. Patrick's Day leading into March Madness, this week was supposed to be one of the busiest of the year."
  • On closing the kitchen: "We were hoping to still do to-go food, but as a sports bar, we're not top of mind when people are ordering takeout. Unfortunately, we've had to close the kitchen and throw out lots of perishables."
  • Neil's big picture: "We have to keep our electrical on because we have freezers full of food and kegs full of beer. We pay $1,500 a month for every sports package known to man and we have lots of other bills. I don't think many businesses, especially in the service industry, can last a whole month like this."

New York: Axios also spoke with Patrick Daley, owner of Kettle of Fish — a longstanding institution in the heart of Greenwich Village. Patrick opened the bar in 1998 with his wife, Adrienne, and the Wisconsin couple has fostered an environment of Midwest charm (and plenty of Packers and Badgers regalia).

  • On the poor timing: "March is one of our two busiest months of the year. This past weekend when we were still open, we probably lost 80% of our business that would be there on a normal weekend in March. So that seemed like a lot at the time, but of course now we're shut down entirely, so it's even crazier."
  • On the other "storms" he's weathered: "During 9/11, we stayed open to give people a place to congregate. But this is weird, because you can't congregate with anybody!"
  • On being more than just a bar: "The Kettle is a lot of people's living room. Being in New York where apartments are smaller, Kettle acts as an extension of their living room. And now they don't have that."

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