Super Bowl a financial boon for local sports bars

By Peter James

Spicy chicken wings and tasty nachos aren’t the only things football fans are looking for when they choose where to watch the Super Bowl, managers at some local sports bars say.

Mike Lafleur, the general manager of the Duke of Somerset bar at the corner of Bank and Somerset streets, says his customers look for a bar that can offer them a quality football package all season long.

“People know every Sunday during the season games are going to be featured here,” he says.

Lafleur says the Duke builds up its customer base throughout the season, and then Super Bowl is the payoff.

“We look forward to [the Super Bowl] every year,” he says. “It’s a big bar event.”

The Glue Pot Pub on Queen Street also sees its business peak during the Super Bowl.

“We’re always packed,” says Sonia Bechard, the bar’s owner. “People have trouble walking around.”

She says her bar pulls out all the stops when it comes to the big game.

“We have prizes like TVs, VCRs and Labatt’s jackets,” she says, adding that the Glue Pot also offers a full buffet dinner on Super Bowl Sunday – the only time each year that it’s offered.

Although the majority of the Glue Pot’s customers are visitors staying at local hotels, Bechard says her customers are still loyal.

She says many visitors come to the Glue Pot each time they visit Ottawa. However, Bechard says Super Bowl Sunday sees both Ottawa residents and hotel visitors come out to the pub.

Although most sports bars in the city will be packed for the game, not every bar has special plans for the event.

Karen McDermaid, general manager of Hoops Sports Bar on Sparks Street, says the reason her bar doesn’t put on any special Super Bowl event is because it has a different clientele.

“The Super Bowl is more a neighbourhood bar sort of thing,” she says.

McDermaid says Hoops attracts a lot of businessmen who are in town for a short time and therefore doesn’t generate many repeat customers.

She says Hoops will still show the big game, but it’s unlikely they’ll see a noticeable increase in customers.

While the Super Bowl is invariably a financial boon for most traditional sports bars, in the past other bars also put on large parties to draw the football crowd.

That trend seems to be changing. For example, this year the Bytown Tavern on Elgin Street will not hold a Super Bowl party.

“We can’t draw people away from Local Heroes for just one day,” says Cindy Lacroix, general manager of the Bytown.

She says the Bytown will close after the game, to undergo renovations and a re-branding. It will re-open in March as Club 292.

Lacroix says most football fans will go to larger sports bars that put on a better show, most of which aren’t in Centretown.

However, both McDermaid and Lafleur agree that if there is more residential development in Centretown, sports bars will become more popular.

Lafleur says the only way to generate new business for neighbourhood sports bars like the Duke of Somerset is to have more people living downtown.

“Centretown is still not as vibrant as we want it to be,” Lafleur says.

McDermaid says even though Hoops currently targets the business traveler, more people living in Centretown would be good for business.

“Business will probably increase when they put in the new residential units along Sparks Street,” McDermaid says.