Sports bars and restaurants welcome football fans after weeks of closures

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“Football’s what brings them and we had a great crowd for the Bowl Game,” said owner of Winchell’s Restaurant and Bar, Graham Waller.

The Wildcats weren’t the only ones who secured a win Saturday. Sports bars and restaurants were finally able to welcome football fans through opened doors, after three weeks of closures last month.

“New Year’s Eve was great. New Year’s Day, you know, everybody wants their black-eyed peas and breakfast food, so it was a huge weekend to end the year.”

Owner of Winchell’s, Graham Waller said every decision they’ve made since March has been centered around how to stay open safely, and how to keep staff employed.

“2020 was tough. And the restaurant industry took a beating. I looked at the numbers New Year’s Day morning. We were down 40 percent sales year to year. And that just doesn’t happen to us.”

Employees previously working 30 to 40 hours, were down to 12 to 14. Some on unemployment altogether.

“It’s just like…wow. It just shows you how a once in a 100 year pandemic can throw a wrench in everybody’s plans,” Waller said.

Waller had to get creative this year. Winchell’s started delivery for the first time. And gift card sales were huge in December. The next challenges for restaurant owners will be to make it through the coldest months ahead while limited capacity guidelines in doors remain.

“We’ll keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve been here 30 years. We love the community, we love our employees. They’ve been great to us.”

Waller said they’re lucky to have a big space inside.

He said this makes it much easier to still serve people with the capacity limitations.

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