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Some restaurants charging for tables during tournament

March 29, 2013

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In this 2003 file photo, Kansas University fans wait in front of Jefferson's Restaurant, 743 Massachusetts St., to get a table for the NCAA men's basketball championship game between KU and Syracuse. The line for the night game started forming at 7 a.m. Now, some Lawrence sports bars — including Jefferson's — require minimum food and drink purchases for customers to keep tables on big game days.

In this 2003 file photo, Kansas University fans wait in front of Jefferson's Restaurant, 743 Massachusetts St., to get a table for the NCAA men's basketball championship game between KU and Syracuse. The line for the night game started forming at 7 a.m. Now, some Lawrence sports bars — including Jefferson's — require minimum food and drink purchases for customers to keep tables on big game days.

On the street

Would you pay for a seat at a sports bar to watch the upcoming KU men’s basketball game?

No, I have a free seat at my house with a 62-inch TV screen and a free six-pack of beer.

More responses

When March Madness hits Lawrence, they’ve been known to commandeer tables for half a day, ordering water and free chip refills to secure a good seat for the big game.

These so-called campers are the target of a new policy some Lawrence sports bars are enforcing for big tournament games: paying for tables.

It’s basically asking customers to order a minimum in food and drink to secure their tables — not unlike the requirements for getting bottle service at a nightclub or reserving a room at many event venues — and different restaurants are taking different approaches.

At Henry T’s, 3520 W. Sixth St., the process is fairly formal, and it’s going over well, bar manager Jeff Hornberger said. As of Thursday morning, the prime tables had already been taken for Friday night’s Kansas University men’s basketball game against the Michigan Wolverines.

A four-person table costs $100 to reserve for the game, Hornberger said. The money goes toward anything you order, so it’s pretty easy to reach $25 a person with an entree, an appetizer and a few beers, he said.

In the past, Hornberger said, he’s had people show up at 11 a.m. to get a table for a night game. Under the new policy, customers with reservations can walk right in and sit down at 6 p.m. for a 6:30 p.m. game, Hornberger said. And the restaurant and its servers don’t lose out on sales and tips because a table was out of commission for an entire day.

Henry T’s started the practice during last year’s tournament and brought it back, Hornberger said. “If it didn’t work last year, we wouldn’t do it again this year.”

Jefferson’s restaurant, 743 Massachusetts St., doesn’t reserve tables, general manager Brooke Pearce said. But for big basketball games, they wait to seat groups until everyone’s there, then require a minimum of $15 per person, per hour in sales.

Jefferson’s also started the practice last year, and Pearce said it worked well. They used it for this year’s Big 12 championship game and tournament games, starting with Sunday’s matchup against North Carolina.

Pearce said Jefferson’s sometimes wiggles on the $15 rule.

“As long as they’re spending money, we’ll work with them,” she said.

Wayne and Larry’s Sports Bar and Grill, 933 Iowa St., has a minimum-purchase type policy similar to Jefferson’s.

Doug Holiday is one restaurant owner who’s doesn’t have any special game-day policies at his establishments, Bigg’s Barbeque, 2429 Iowa St., and Burgers by Bigg’s, 4801 Bauer Farm Drive.

At least at his restaurants, Holiday said, loitering hasn’t been a problem. However, he does stick with a common restaurant rule to help keep things moving.

“For those nights when we know it’s going to be busy ... we don’t seat incomplete parties,” he said.

And while die-hard basketball fans may find it unfathomable, there are people who simply want to go out for a meal on game days.

“We actually have people come in, eat and leave,” Holiday said, “then end up with tables open right before the game.”

Comments

Liberty275 1 year ago

I've never understood why people go to bars to watch sports.

0

Jason Johnson 1 year ago

If you want to watch a game for free, watch it at your house. They're a business, not a lounge for non-paying customers.

2

Leslie Swearingen 1 year ago

Well, well, well, I guess now the restaurants are glad they did that. The run is ended for KU, and I am bitterly disappointed, but they still have the money they would have made if the crowds had been there for the tourney.

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ksjayhawk74 1 year ago

Last year a friend of mine was waiting for me to meet him at Jefferson's to watch the Missouri game that we almost lost. He sat at the bar waiting for me and hadn't ordered yet, because he was waiting for me. So right before he was going to order any way the bartender comes and tells him that he has to spend $20 an hour to sit at the bar, otherwise, he has to leave. He was shocked that he was being treated like a vagrant and couldn't understand how he could even spend the $40 that would have been required to sit there. Then a manager shows up with the biggest guy from the kitchen to escort him out of the place. He was totally humiliated. It was a classless way of doing business on Jefferson's part and neither of us would ever go back there again.

Seriously, how many people would stick around or ever go back to a place that started off by giving you an ultimatum?

All they had to do is kindly explain that they needed to make sure that everyone who was taking up space, was actually spending money, without the telling you how much you were required to spend and without threats and intimidation.

2

Bailey Perkins 1 year ago

We had someone show up, but they were stuck in the line outside. Since it was a 'first come, first serve' seating, we lost the table. We even had drinks and food ordered and they still kicked us out. If they actually cared about business, they wouldn't do that to paying customers.

2

Bailey Perkins 1 year ago

Should have included Buffalo Wild Wings, too. They kicked our group out last year because our fourth person couldn't make it and we lost our booth. Not to mention, they lost my business.

1

PeriMac 1 year ago

I think that is a good idea. There is a balance as well because some places are not going to implement that rule. Not bad!

0

kufan1146 1 year ago

Makes sense to me. I'd love to do the $100 minimum and show up 10 minutes before the game and get a table. If you don't want to spend the money, order a pizza and watch at home or a friends, no problem!

4

g_rock 1 year ago

Them moment where it pays to be a regular at a good bar....priceless!

4

Scott Morgan 1 year ago

Good for the privately owned business. More power to them. Back in the day, a bar owner would just give you the heave ho. Good grief, serve staff and bar owners look at these special days as make or break big profit times.

How could anybody sit around all day holding a table spending chicken feed money?

6

Wayne James 1 year ago

Any trick to make a fast buck!

0

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