Bar and restaurant owners in South Bend are exploring ways to attract more customers after the University of Notre Dame limited attendance at Irish football games to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The school's decision to limit attendance at home games to no more than 20% of stadium capacity while also banning tailgating on campus was another hit for businesses that depend on the home games for a large part of their revenue.
Notre Dame's policies mean fewer Irish fans visiting the northern Indiana city for games and less people patronizing its bars and restaurants, the South Bend Tribune reported.
“We’re going to experience something that we haven’t experienced before,” said Rob DeCleene, executive director of Visit South Bend Mishawaka, St. Joseph County’s tourism agency.
Each home football game brings in about $17 million in visitor spending to St. Joseph County and $22 million for the overall region, according to the most recent study.
Although Notre Dame's new policies were not a surprise, bars, venues and restaurants are scrambling to come up with ways to make up some of the potential revenue shortfall.
Pat Mulligan, the owner of Mulligan’s Bar and Grill near Notre Dame's campus, plans to set up a large outdoor tent and hook up 14 televisions screens throughout the bar — inside and out — for customers.
Pegg Dalton, who owns the restaurant PEGGS, has met with a fellow restaurateur to discuss the possibility of using the gridiron in front of the former College Football Hall of Fame as a site for local restaurants to host watch parties.
“This will impact us, but I can’t tell you how much," said Jim Augustine, who owns Augie’s Locker Room, a Notre Dame memorabilia store near campus that gets busy during home football games.