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

The large metal gate stolen from Muddy Valley Farm in rural Saanich on Jan. 18 reappeared less than a week later. (Muddy Valley Farm/Facebook)
Large metal gate stolen from Saanich farm makes mysterious reappearance

12-foot gate returned to Muddy Valley Farm less than a week after it was stolen

Langford and Vancouver Island Economic Alliance are partnering to provide local businesses with one-year Island Good memberships. (Courtesy of Vancouver Island Economic Alliance)
Langford offering local businesses free Island Good membership

Island Good label helps consumers identify local products

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered Langford teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

The speculation and vacancy tax raised about $1.21 million in Sidney and North Saanich combined. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich and Sidney property owners paid $1.21 million in speculation and vacancy tax

Speculation and vacancy tax raised 6.5 million in Greater Victoria

Saanich parks staff will be applying a herbicide called Garlon XRT in Sayward Hill Park between Jan. 18 to 29 to control the invasive species English holly and hawthorn. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Herbicide used to target ‘priority’ invasive species in Saanich park

Treatment applied to English holly, hawthorn stumps, in Sayward Hill Park

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Most Read