COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The NCAA basketball tournament is not only madness for basketball, but also for business in the Arena District.
Between the tournament and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, restaurants and bars are calling in the cavalry to handle crowds on what some business owners are predicting will be the biggest weekend of the year.
“This is our Super Bowl. This is as big as it gets this weekend,” said Tim Emery, the owner of Boston’s Gourmet Pizza. He’s no stranger to March Madness in Columbus; since opening in 2008, the restaurant has weathered the tournament crowds several times over the years.
Emery said he is expecting sales to go up by 50 to 70% compared to other weekends — and his entire staff will be working this weekend to keep up.
“We’re going to open at 9, probably by about 10 we will be full and it will go until about midnight probably,” Emery said.
In preparation, the restaurant has stocked up on fan favorites like pizza and beer, keeping about 50% more food in its arsenal than what it would normally sell in a weekend.
Matt Rootes, the co-owner of Moran’s Bar and Grill, said he’s doing the same.
“Just because it’s Friday during Lent, we really upped our fish and chips and our salmon and our grouper,” Rootes said. “And then of course all the fried foods, the chicken wings, the chicken tenders.”
It’s the Moran’s Bar and Grill’s first March Madness experience, Rootes said, but he’s had experience with tournament crowds. When Columbus hosted the NCAA women’s volleyball Final Four in 2021, the joint was packed wall-to-wall. Root said he is expecting this weekend’s crowds to be even bigger, especially with St. Patrick’s Day celebrators.
“We definitely upped those and the Jameson’s, those types of Irish whiskeys,” Rootes said.
While basketball fans crowd around TV screens, Rootes said the Arena District bars are participating in a St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl — and they’re expecting thousands to attend. That’s why Moran’s is going for speed and practicality, swapping cloth napkins for paper and pint glasses for plastic cups.
The Arena District is a DORA (designated outdoor refreshment area), meaning people can walk from bar to bar with alcoholic drinks. Rootes said that is another reason why they are using plastic cups.
Both restaurants are opening early Friday so people can claim their seats before the games start.
Each restaurant and bar in the Arena District has been designated as the home bar for each team playing in Columbus.
- Purdue – Boston’s (191 W. Nationwide Blvd.)
- Michigan State – Moran’s (415 N. Front St.)
- Marquette – RBar (413 N, Front St.)
- Florida Atlantic – RBar (413 N. Front St.)
- Memphis – Goodwood Brewing (401 N. Front St.)
- USC – Goodwood Brewing (401 N. Front St.)
- Vermont – Whistle and Keg (343 N. Front St.)
- Texas Southern/Fairleigh Dickinson – Whistle and Keg (343 N. Front St.)