If you come to Major Goolsby’s these days, you might see a game with Aaron Rodgers, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Vince Lombardi.
A landmark in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for more than 45 years, the bar had to disguise cardboard clippings from sports stars and place them on tables to maintain social distance and restore a sporty bar atmosphere.
Major Goolsby’s is one of the more than 59,000 bar and nightclub companies in the US that had to adapt their services to mask wearing and social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic that began in mid-March 2020.
The bar immediately closed when the pandemic hit the US in March and didn’t reopen until August. Wage cuts were made, but shutdowns were never an option for the owners.
“”[The owners] I’ll do whatever I can to keep us going and keep people informed, “General Manager Marty Petricca told ESPN. Fortunately,” it’s been a bit more stable lately, “Petricca said, despite restrictions that require six feet social distancing inside and outside and a city-approved safety plan.
However, according to Petricca, it was difficult to recreate a typical sports bar atmosphere in a place that would normally have 400 guests. Local community support was essential, from takeaway orders from people unsafe inside or loyal fans stopping by for specialty beers to watch college basketball. The cutouts help too.
“We’re probably the most socially distant bar in town right now because we have all that space,” Petricca said.
In Kansas City, Missouri, The Blue Line – known for nine years serving ice hockey fans – was able to expand its outdoor business to the streets, which was a big help in the summer, and in the milder part of fall, owner Steve Stegall told ESPN .
It was still a struggle to miss days like St. Patrick’s Day and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
“It was a bitch to survive,” said Stegall. “But we are very, very blessed with many of our loyal customers.”
Stegall cited St. Louis Blues fans as the most loyal and loudest. “They create our atmosphere above them and our regular guests.”
The Blue Line is an older building right in the heart of the historic Missouri side of Kansas City that’s known not only for wild fans, but also for its selection of beers and memorabilia on every wall. Stegall is now allowing large groups to make reservations, which was critical to the Kansas City Chiefs Games. The groups appear at 1 p.m. – Also for a night game.
Closing it was also not an option for Stegall, who owns the bar with his father. At some point the two stopped paying themselves so the staff could keep busy.
“We’re on the rebound,” he said.
Unfortunately, other sports bars are not so lucky.
As of December 1, nearly 17% of US restaurants were “permanently or long-term closed”. according to a study run by the National Restaurant Association – the equivalent of more than 110,000 service industry companies across the country.
Foley’s, a legendary sports bar in midtown Manhattan, was one of the corporations to fall victim to COVID-19, despite struggling to keep it afloat.
In May, owner Shaun Clancy announced that his bar – known for its collection of more than 4,000 signed baseball balls on display, as well as a handful of other sports memorabilia – would be closed forever after running out of money to pay for employees. His announcement on Twitter has been seen by more than three million people – he told ESPN his phone was frozen and rendered unusable with expressions of condolences the day he posted it.
– Foleys NY (@FoleysNY) May 29, 2020
It has been the pouring of support since then that made it clear to Clancy that the bar can reopen even though he doesn’t know when or where.
“We’re basically in limbo right now,” he told ESPN. “We just don’t know what the future holds. Will people ever want to be trapped in a sports bar again?”
Meanwhile, Clancy was able to use what he called the “face of what COVID did to New York” to help the 15 employees he had to lay off.
When people found out about Foley’s closure, they wanted to buy furnishings, menus, shirts, and memorabilia – whatever they could get their hands on to remember a legendary New York sports bar. All the money went to the staff, as did the money from a pop-up shop slated for St. Patrick’s Day, a typically wild holiday for the bar.
“Most importantly, Foley’s was never about memorabilia, never about me,” Clancy told ESPN. “It was about the people – what Foley’s did was the people. The people who come through the doors. We keep that spirit alive. I look forward to the day we bring it back.”