James “Bam” Peck, owner of The Break Sports Grill, picked up the phone late Tuesday afternoon, unsure of what was coming.
The reporter on the other end had cold-called Peck, looking to discuss the lack of University of Utah football this fall and how that may affect The Break’s bottom line.
“Yeah, not so good,” Peck told The Salt Lake Tribune, stifling his uneasy laugh in the process.
There are a lot of people with a lot at stake as it relates to the Pac-12′s decision to postpone all sports until at least Jan. 1. The Utah athletic department is projecting losses up to $60 million. As a result, the entire department is subject to furloughs in the coming weeks and months, while athletic director Mark Harlan has acknowledged some layoffs in his department.
Longtime season-ticket holders have time to fill, game-day operations staff have no use at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Sports-centric bars and restaurants like The Break, which has locations in West Valley and South Jordan, are going to wind up as collateral damage. Remember, bars and restaurants were already hurting thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Losing Utes football this fall is not going to help.
Peck estimates his business is down roughly 20-25% overall. A Utes game day, as he puts it, would bring a “full house” to his establishments. Without a Utah game being played, those losses on a game day would rise to between 30-40% of normal business.
“We’re paying for DirecTV and Comcast, waiting for things to come around, but that’s now a wasted expense,” Peck said, referencing the fact Pac-12 Network is not available on DirecTV. “We hope NFL Sundays being back will help, but we’ll have to see.”
The Green Pig Pub is in a comparable situation. Owner Bridget Gordon’s bar, located on the corner of 400 South and State Street is netting roughly 65-75% of what it normally does.
When Utah football is home, Gordon estimates she’ll do about $22,000 on the day of a game vs. $18,000 if the Utes are on the road. Both figures are thousands more than what she is currently doing now on a daily basis.
“Since there is no athletics going on, it has affected me dramatically,” said Gordon, who noted she is operating more like a restaurant as opposed to a bar because of social-distancing mandates. “I own a sports bar, we do some entertainment, I don’t know how to do COVID.”
Gordon noted she has had to trim some payroll, cut some other costs and raised some prices, but her bills are getting paid. She has saved well through the years and has not been frivolous.
Like Peck, Gordon hopes NFL Sundays remain a draw, but that may be optimistic for a bar owner. The Green Pig Pub is known for a Sunday brunch buffet, but that hasn’t happened since the pandemic began in March.
When the Utes are on the road, Tyler Enniss, general manager of A Bar Named Sue, says most tables in his Salt Lake City location are filled with red. Home games are different given a lot of his usual clientele would be at Rice-Eccles Stadium, but still, business is usually strong.
Enniss estimates Utah-related profits during a game at approximately $2,000 to $3,000. Based on that math, a regular season without Utah football would equate to a loss north of $20,000 for Enniss. This, of course, is on top of any losses pinned on the pandemic.
“It would be nice if they could figure out a way to play, I want them to play as a Utah fan, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to other things going on of course,” Enniss said when asked about the possibility of the Pac-12 starting football in November or January. “I’ve been blessed to have the percentages I do to this point, but yes, it would be nice to have Utah football. It’s basically a built-in reason to come to the bar.”