COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Arena District is in the middle of the madness for this year’s NCAA basketball tournament.

Restaurants and bars around Nationwide Arena have been packed with fans since 9 a.m. Friday. Before the tournament even started, some business owners were predicting this would be their busiest weekend of the year.

“Everyone is excited, it’s going to be like this all day,” said Tim Emery, the owner of Boston’s Gourmet Pizza.

Emery’s shop started filling up right at 9 a.m., he said, with standing room only in a little more than an hour. He said his entire staff showed up ready to work and the fans arrived fired up.

“It’s going to be busy. All the people are already in town, so tomorrow we’ve already had a lot of people ask what time we are going to be open,” Emery said.

He said the fans are not limiting their purchases or their energy.

“You can have pizza for breakfast right? What’s better for breakfast than pizza and beer,” Emery said.

Some fans like Jenn Pawlowski have been waiting for this moment for a year.

“I was the second patron here at 9 am,” Pawlowski said. “Being in Columbus, a Big 10 city, is amazing.”

The assistant manager at Whistle and Keg said by noon, the restaurant’s sales had already doubled a normal Friday sum. She said with it also being St. Patrick’s Day, she expects the crowds to keep growing.

“There’s been a line since we opened,” Ertle said. “Of course, we have our Guinness and Conways locked and loaded.”

Ertle said she worked until close Thursday night and then opened the bar Friday morning. She and her staff have been busy preparing for the business boon.

Businesses are expecting crowds to increase throughout the night as the St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl gets underway.