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Local businesses languish as MLB season is underway without fans
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Thursday marked the opening day for the MLB’s first revised, 60-game season. As players packed into Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., to watch Dr. Anthony Fauci throw out the first pitch, popular bars and restaurants in the surrounding area were noticeably quiet.
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In a city like Washington, bars and restaurants that usually boast two-hour wait times on Opening Day were lucky to see a line at all. Coupled with state and local guidelines that require six-person table limits and socially distanced seating, already struggling businesses geared up to face the economic fallout of an MLB season without fans.
“It was a mess,” said Stephanie Sandoval, the general manager at Willie’s Brew and Que in Washington. “Our revenue was maybe half of last year's. Even when business started picking up, we were having to turn people away.”
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Local Washington ordinance requires that restaurants operate at 50 percent capacity for both indoor and outdoor seating. Even if a good number of fans do turn out to experience the game at the local bar, it is unlikely that establishments will be able to serve enough people to generate a healthy profit. Many bars and restaurants are already on the tipping point after months of being shuttered.
Businesses in cities such as St. Louis may face an even graver risk from an MLB season without fans in attendance. Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis, said that businesses near the ballpark, notably in neighborhoods that are otherwise quiet, suffer the most when games aren’t played.
“St. Louis attracts over 3 million fans to the ballpark per year, and this further exacerbates the comparative negative economic impact of this year’s season,” he told FOX Business. “With no fans allowed and COVID restrictions in place, we will see a significant reduction in spending.”