Archive for Monday, April 7, 2008

Downtown Lawrence: Before the party

April 7, 2008


Downtown Lawrence is a powder keg in advance of tonight's National Championship game. Well, it is a keg anyway.

At times during the afternoon, it looked like an army of beer trucks had invaded Massachusetts Street.

"Normally we don't even work on Monday," Josh Seidel, a delivery man for Topeka-based Capital Distributing, said. "There's been a lot of overtime. And I haven't had to deal with any unhappy bar owners either. They're all in a great mood."

Just how good is business? Picture this. Seidel was preparing to deliver six kegs of Pabst to Jackpot Saloon. He had just delivered a pallet of Pabst cans to the Replay Lounge across the street.

Yeah, Pabst.

Want something more definitive? Kevin O'Malley - an owner of Lawrence-based O'Malley Beverage, which distributes Budweiser - said the number of kegs and cases going out to bars, restaurants and liquor stores is up 35 percent compared to the same week a year ago.

After today, the number certainly will be higher.

"The phone has rung more today than the last two and a half years since I owned this place," O'Malley said. "It has just been nonstop."

O'Malley said his drivers worked both Saturday and Sunday - normally off days - to make sure customers were stocked up. He said all salesmen were required to check their cell phones every 10 minutes for new orders.

"Business is probably 10 times better than the days leading up to the Super Bowl, which is a really busy time for us," O'Malley said.

And Irishmen, sit down for this next statement.

"It is even better than St. Patrick's Day," O'Malley said. "There is nothing like this."

It felt like a day unlike any other on Massachusetts Street.

Jayhawk flags flapped in a light breeze from every intersection. People for no reason stopped to have their picture taken in front of them. KU gear was everywhere, with many of the hats, shirts and jerseys still bearing the pricetags from the stores where they were just purchased.

College-aged men wore crimson and blue Mardi Gras-style beads. We'll let you guess whether that was simply a fashion statement.

Cell phone conversations were rampant up and down the sidewalks, with most of them having a highly logistical tone.

"There's a parking space available right now," one man was heard saying. "No, never mind."

Another was more colorful from what appeared to be a college-aged co-ed walking into Starbucks.

"I've got to get some (expletive) coffee," she said. "I've got to wake up."

Businesses were in either a feast or famine mode. A quick walk through the Jock's Nitch made it clear they certainly had found their niche today. Sales clerks with long metal poles were grabbing shirts hung from hooks ceiling high. Customers stood in line with credit and debit cards already in hand.

Other business people - those at printing shops, attorney offices other businesses that had neither booze nor bounty to offer - spent part of the afternoon just standing in their front stoops watching what was shaping up as the most unusual of Mondays.

The oddity of it all drew Nadine and Fred Mason to downtown from Piper. It is Nadine's birthday, and they wanted to spend it around some energy.

"You can just feel the anticipation," said Fred Mason, who said he and Nadine would go back to Kansas City, Kan., and leave the downtown celebration tonight to a younger set.

Lindsay Nonken, a KU sophomore is happy to carry the torch. She said she planned to watch the game at Allen Fieldhouse but would definitely come downtown for the celebration.

"You're only in college once," Nonken said. "You have to experience it."

The only thing better than experiencing it once, may be experiencing it twice.

Andy Fleming was 15 years old and three inches from his television set when the Jayhawks won their last national championship in 1988. He drove up from Ottawa this afternoon because he said he wanted to be "part of the craziness."

He said he thought about wearing his original 1988 championship T-shirt, but said he would be devastated if it got ripped in the melee. Instead, he now plans to frame it, hopefully with a 2008 version right next to it.

"I still remember the feeling from 1988," Fleming said. "I've never won the lottery, but that feeling I had in '88, that's what I think it would feel like to have a winning ticket."

Jayhawk fans, get your tickets ready.


Joel 10 years, 2 months ago

Chad Lawhorn is one of my favorite journalists of all time, but he's betrayed a glaring lack of familiarity with the hipster lifestyle. Not: "Yeah, Pabst." But: "OF COURSE, Pabst." Lawhorn clearly needs to spend more time at the Replay. You'd fit right in, Chad. I swear.

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