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Archive for Thursday, April 4, 2002

Downtown bars attract sports fans

A Night on the Town

April 4, 2002

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Ordering party trays and calling your friends to come over and watch the big game may be a fading tradition as bars add more and more television sets, big screens, games and drink deals to attract athletic enthusiasts.

Even though the Kansas University Jayhawks were not playing, sports bars on Massachusetts Street drew a crowd on Monday night to watch the NCAA basketball championship game between Maryland and Indiana.

This is a growing trend as bars cater to sports fans who prefer a noisy crowd of strangers to a group of friends.

"If a bar has a game on, it's more apt to get my business," said 22-year old Nick Spacek, Lawrence, a patron of Red Lyon Tavern on Monday night. "Any bar with a TV is going to have some fans."

Even The Bottleneck, known for its live bands, loses the attention of its customers to a television set on game night.

"I was at The Bottleneck last Friday, I think it was," said Simon Cordova, an employee at Buffalo Wild Wings, another bar on Massachuseets Street. "There were bands playing, but there were only five guys at the stage because everybody was watching the game. As soon as the game ended, it was just, whoosh, the crowd at the stage quadrupled."

Bars that cater to sports fans can enjoy big business on game nights. The Red Lyon Tavern is a traditional bar, a dimly lit joint with a heavy presence of cigarette smoke that does not serve food and has a group of regulars. On Monday night, half of the patrons watched the game on a television bracketed high in a corner while the other half played pool or darts at the other end of the long room.

Buffalo Wild Wings, on the other hand, is the new style of bar clean, bright and stylish. Just opened on Jan. 20, it features 28 television sets, including big screens, and trivia and video games. On Monday night, it enjoyed a larger crowd than usual. The booths underneath the television sets along the north wall were mostly vacant, turned down in favor of tables with chairs that could be turned to watch the game.

"It's bigger. There's TVs everywhere," said Kateri Schaaf, a student at Haskell Indian Nations University, giving her reasons for coming to Buffalo. "I like the atmosphere."

Cordova said Buffalo Wild Wings is successful because it caters to all ages.

"We have a menu for children all the way up," Cordova said. "We have 20 beers on tap."

Though it enjoys a larger crowd, Buffalo does get a loyal or consistent crowd. Game nights are always the biggest nights of the week, with Saturday drawing 400 people to the bar, which has a capacity of 257, according to Cordova.

"KU games are usually on Monday, so that's always been our biggest night," Cordova said. "Saturday's game was the biggest. KU's game versus Missouri was also big."

A big crowd has a snowball effect on potential customers. The bigger the crowd, the more others want to come.

"It's a more exciting atmosphere," Schaaf said. "It's still fun at home, but there's more yelling here."

Bars without sports fans on game night are susceptible to losing their regulars.

"Replay is my bar of choice," Spacek said as he sat on a barstool at the Red Lyon. "But Replay has less of a sports atmosphere."

Matt Hallauer is a student at Baker University in Baldwin.

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