A server pulls a pint of beer at Station Sports bar in Montreal, Saturday, July 25, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

A server pulls a pint of beer at Station Sports bar in Montreal, Saturday, July 25, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Return of baseball, basketball brings customers back to sports bars

Sergakis said bars will need government help to get through the coming months to avoid major closures in Montreal

Toronto sports fans aren’t the only ones cheering the return of the Blue Jays and Raptors, who both played their first games this week since the COVID-19 pandemic put the MLB and NBA seasons on hold.

Sports bar owners say the Jays’ season opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday and the Raptors’ scrimmage versus the Houston Rockets the same evening brought customers back to patios that sat empty after being forced to close during the pandemic. They’re optimistic the NHL’s return next weekend in Toronto and Edmonton will help even more.

“It actually was busier than we expected,” said Dave Auger, the general manager of the 817 Sports Bar and Grill on Queen Street West, who showed the Jays game and boxing on Friday.

“We opened at noon and by 2 p.m. we were non-stop and then at 6:30 p.m. all the tables were full until about 11 p.m., when we started getting a few tables opening up.”

It was a welcome sight for the 817, which didn’t offer delivery or takeout during its four-month closure.

Bills were piling up, but no revenue was coming in, said Auger.

“We shut down whatever we could shut down, turned down the heat to 60 degrees and made sure the air conditioning was off, but in the end, you still have hard, fixed costs like rent and insurance, which was killer,” he said.

A survey from Restaurants Canada revealed in early July that the majority of food-service businesses across the country are still losing money and could take at least a year to return to profitability.

To make back some of what he lost, Auger reopened the bar’s patio on Thursday with screens to show games, pizza, slider and pilsner specials to drive in customers and a slew of new physical distancing measures to keep them safe.

San Yoges was also pleased to see customers returning to the Office Pub on John Street to watch the Jays, but said COVID-19 measures mean the crowds aren’t what they once were.

Yoges’ three patios at the location can only hold 50 per cent of the people they would have before the pandemic.

“We are only putting like 40 people maximum on our patios, which is not the same as 400 capacity,” said Yoges.

“We are really waiting for stage three to open up, so we can put an additional 50 people inside.”

The lower capacity barely puts a dent in the money Yoges must come with soon.

He incurred plenty of bills when he wound down his second location on King Street East, which became too hard to continue with during the pandemic, and owes roughly $30,000 to his John Street landlord next month.

Meanwhile, Peter Sergakis, the owner of several Montreal sports bars, said he was looking forward to the NHL resuming.

“Montreal is hockey,” Sergakis said on Saturday. “We want hockey to start again, we’re excited, but you have to understand we only have 50 per cent capacity and without hockey, business is terrible.”

Sergakis is getting about a quarter of the business his establishments attracted pre-pandemic and is worried because hockey games will be played sparingly for a short time.

“It’s not enough for our survival,” Sergakis said. “But it’s better than nothing.”

Sergakis said bars will need government help to get through the coming months to avoid major closures in Montreal.

Adding more customers will bring a bit of zip to the atmosphere, which he described as akin to a funeral parlour.

But it’s a big job keeping tabs on customers, ensuring public health orders are being followed and that tables and bathrooms are frequently cleaned.

Screaming fans are not great from a COVID-19 perspective, but Sergakis said the priority is the health of employees and customers.

“It’s tremendous amount of responsibility,” Sergakis said. “But we’re excited for when hockey comes back for however long it is.”

Next weekend is shaping up to be a big one for Canadian sports fans — and potentially sports bars.

Six Canadian NHL teams open qualifying series in Toronto and Edmonton, the Blue Jays face the Phillies in a weekend series in either Philadelphia or Buffalo, N.Y., the Raptors open seeding round play in the Orlando area, and Toronto FC, the Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps hope to continue play at the MLS is Back Tournament in Florida.

— With files from Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

MLBNBANHLSports

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

The southern mountain caribou, an iconic species for the Splatsin First Nation, is threatened with extinction, much to the dismay of the First Nation. (Province of B.C. photo)
Splatsin First Nation concerned over dwindling caribou herd

Southern mountain caribou at risk of extinction, will struggle to recover without habitat protection and restoration action - report

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

Five-year-old Bayne Krause poses for a photo with his mom Marianne. Bayne’s shirt reads, ‘I have Cystic Fibrosis. Help keep me healthy, please social distance.’ Photo: Laurie Tritschler
West Kootenay mom promotes awareness of cystic fibrosis

Marianne Krause wants people to know what it’s like for her five-year-old son to live with CF

A rolled-over semi along Highway 95. The RCMP have responded to nine collisions in the last month. (Brain Duchovnay photo)
Golden/Field RCMP recap last two months

The RCMP responded to 463 calls to service over the last two months

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
UPDATE: Winfield road open following police, coroner investigation

Pelmewash Parkway closure near Highway 97 connection

Kelowna resident Sally Wallick helped rescue a kayaker in distress a week and a half ago. (Sally Wallick/Contributed)
VIDEO: Kelowna woman rescues capsized kayaker in Okanagan Lake

Sally Wallick is asking people to be prepared for the cold water and unpredictable winds

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

RCMP (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
High-risk takedown on Highway 1 following Shuswap shooting

Upon further investigation, the vehicle and its occupants were not associated with the shooting

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Most Read