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Businesses expect boost with Packers opener

Bar owners expect swarms of Cheeseheads will fill their establishments tonight to watch the Green Bay Packers' -- and the National Football League's -- regular season opener.

Bar owners expect swarms of Cheeseheads will fill their establishments tonight to watch the Green Bay Packers' -- and the National Football League's -- regular season opener.

The Packers, after all, have a way of drawing a crowd.

"We know the Packers are good for business, and the NFL is good for business," said Pete Madland of Chetek, executive director of the Tavern League of Wisconsin, a nonprofit association that promotes tavern interests.

The Packers, fresh off a win in last year's Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers, will kick off the season tonight against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.

Madland said he's unsure of the exact financial impact the Packers have on taverns, but Eau Claire bar owners concur: The start of the NFL season means money in their pockets.

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"I can only imagine what the Super Bowl did for the (tavern and restaurant) industry last year was terrific," said Mike Dooley, owner of Dooley's Pub on Water Street. "... Any local team performing well is good for business."

Dooley and others said while business is always better when the Packers are playing, it's best when they're winning. The same is true, they said, of the Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins.

"When they're winning, people are happy, and they want to be out," said Laura Girolamo, manager of Girolamo's Court'N House Bar & Grill on West Grand Avenue.

The opposite can be true at restaurants, said Ed Lump, CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. Eateries that cater to sports fans by providing lots of TVs and game coverage can see a boon on game days, Lump said, but more traditional restaurants may see a slowdown as patrons stay home or go to bars to watch the game.

"It depends on your kind of restaurant," Lump said.

The football season also is a good time of year for grocery stores, where fans flock to pile up on game day goodies, said Mike Buck, CEO and president of Mega Foods. Buck's company operates three grocery stores in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls and a chain of convenience stores in the area.

"We absolutely see an increase in the tailgate type items," Buck said, noting beer, grilling foods and potato chip sales usually go up during football season.

Count UW-Eau Claire student Jason Stini among the people who will be filing into Water Street bars tonight. He said he plans to view the game at The Pickle, where he will take advantage of game day drink specials.

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Stini said bars on Water Street usually don't fill up until after Packers games, noting many students tend to watch football games at home and come to bars afterward.

"After the game all of Water Street is packed," he said.

Tavern owners said their biggest crowds show up during the Packers' rivalry games against the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. This year, the Packers play the Bears in Weeks 3 and 16; they square off against the Vikings in Weeks 7 and 10.

Madland also said taverns see their biggest crowds during Sunday night games; games that fall on weeknights tend to draw smaller crowds.

"It's hard to get people out on Monday nights or Thursday nights," Madland said.

Bennett can be reached at 715-830-5832, 800-236-7077 or mclean.bennett@ecpc.com .

(c)2011 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)

Visit the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.) at www.leadertelegram.com

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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