That’s Chris Fuselier’s prediction for the Colorado Rockies’ opening day on Friday. It does not refer to record attendance or on-court action. Fuselier is betting his business, Blake Street Tavern, will have the busiest day in its 19-year history when Coors Field hosts the first opening day without COVID-19 crowd restrictions since 2019.
“People are climbing the walls to get out,” Fuselier said. “We had a fantastic March Madness tournament. We were very busy on Saturday and Monday night and I predict Friday will be our busiest day ever. »
Joel Watkins hopes to score a personal best on opening day of 800 hot dogs sold from his cart at the corner of 19th Avenue and Wynkoop Street. He’s coached Diamond Dawgs at Rocky Mountain games since Coors Field opened in 1995 and he’s set for a return to pre-pandemic activity.
“I’m excited about it. Everyone downtown is thrilled about it,” Watkins said. “People are coming out of winter. It sort of opens up the summer.
Denver business leaders and the sports bars, restaurants and shops around the ballpark hope opening day will mark the start of a new season for downtown’s pandemic-induced winter. . Downtown activity plummeted after the exodus of people from offices in March 2020 when COVID-19 restrictions were imposed and restaurants and entertainment venues closed and then reopened at limited capacities.
Some major establishments around Coors Field have closed, such as LoDo’s and El Chapultepec. New ones have opened: Whiskey Row in the old LoDo spot, and El Tejano Tex-Mex, Loaded nightclub and Smash Face Brewing on Market Street. But some spaces remain empty. And the camps of homeless people living in tents on city streets stood out more.
A clearing of camps in the ballpark area was done on Tuesday, but not because of the home opener, Nancy Kuhn, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, said in an e-mail. mail. She said regular cleanings are carried out for everyone’s health and safety and that outreach teams talk to people about resources and shelters beforehand.
Despite challenges heightened by the pandemic, the Downtown Denver Partnership, which represents business interests and works with civic leaders on economic development and other projects, said business is picking up downtown. Kourtny Garrett, president and CEO of the partnership, said about 40% of workers have returned to downtown offices, although the number fluctuates daily.
Driven in part by people dining at the restaurant and visiting other places, downtown foot traffic averages just under 200,000 a day, according to the partnership. Garrett said the daily average in 2019 was around 250,000, including nights and weekends.
This year’s opening day of baseball, the first without COVID-19-related restrictions or crowd limits since 2019, could mark “a moment of return and celebration that truly gives a nod to life and the community who are still going strong in Denver.” Garrett said.
“I’m hearing from business leaders as well as small businesses that everyone is looking forward to this as a turning point,” Garrett added. “I also hear, ‘Well, I haven’t been to opening day in a few years and I’m going this year.'”
Garrett said this year’s opening day could beat previous attendance figures. The downtown partnership has planned a community party from noon to 2 p.m. Friday in the second block of Skyline Park, along Arapahoe Street between 15th and 17th streets.
Like a vacation
In 2020, the pandemic delayed the start of Major League Baseball until late July and no fans were allowed in. At the start of the 2021 season, crowd size was capped at 42.6% of stadium capacity, or 21,363 fans. Coors Field returned to 100% capacity on June 28, 2021.
“It was just a roller coaster,” Cherry Cricket general manager Samantha Taxin said of the past two years.
Cherry Cricket, a longtime popular Denver burger and beer establishment, opened its second location on Blake Street near Coors Field on April 17, 2018, following opening day. Taxin said opening day in 2019 was awesome. Then the pandemic hit.
This year, with no limit on the number of fans in the stadium, Taxin said opening day was like a public holiday. She thinks it’s “gonna explode out of the water every other day” in business terms.
“We’re expecting neck and neck people,” Taxin said. “People are excited to eat burgers and drink beer and be in their purple. It is a party. It’s what we look forward to every year, so it’s good to have it back. »
The Cherry Cricket has 32 taps and “so much beer we don’t know what to do with it,” Taxin said. The company also has a cleaning regime to keep things sanitized. Taxin said she encourages people to wear masks if they choose.
At the 16th Street Mall, employees of sportswear store Sportsfan were preparing for a long day Friday and likely Saturday, the second day of the Rockies’ three-day homestand against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Manager Grant Hartmeister said the store will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“Opening day is one of our busiest days,” Hartmeister said. “The Broncos are still kings in Denver, so a few more days are more important because of that fact.”
While some downtown bars and restaurants weren’t quite full, Hartmeister said he would have all the people he needed. He can call on employees from other Sportsfan stores in the Denver area if he needs to.
But the Sportsfan was grappling with another lingering effect of the pandemic: supply chain issues. Hartmeister didn’t have as many Dodgers products on hand as he would have liked. “Shipping and logistics get in the way.”
One for the record books
At Blake Street Tavern, Fuselier, the owner was interviewing potential employees earlier in the week. Like many businesses, especially in the hospitality industry, the tavern has faced labor shortages during the pandemic.
“We are still hiring. We are understaffed, like everyone else,” Fuselier said.
However, when it comes to beer, there will be no shortage, he added. The tavern, which has three bars and a beer garden, went through more than 100 kegs on the day of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and Fuselier expects to go through at least 150 to 200 kegs on the day of the parade. ‘opening. A refrigerated truck with supplies will be outside.
“This is our first real opening day in three years. COVID hit us mid March 2020 so we lost opening day that year. Then last year we had a much smaller opening day,” Fuselier said.
The Rockies’ first home game is usually the busiest day of the year at Blake Street Tavern with sales of $125,000 to $150,000. The next busiest day is St. Patrick’s Day. This year, the tavern achieved sales of $95,000 on St. Patrick’s Day, the best daily catch so far this year.
“I’m really pleased to say that last March we had the same number of sales as in March 2019,” said Fuselier, who expects Friday to be his biggest working day ever. .
“There were several days where I thought about handing over the keys and saying I couldn’t take this anymore,” Fuselier said. “I’m glad I held on for me and my staff.”
Tom’s Watch Bar in McGregor’s Square, next to Coors Field, missed opening day in 2021 but began operations in June, three weeks before the MLB All-Star Game in Denver. Bar co-founder Tom Ryan called the experience a “baptism by fire” and “a spectacular four days”.
Place McGregor, which covers one city block, has more than 10 restaurants and bars, retail outlets, private residences and a hotel. Colorado Rockies co-owners Dick and Charlie Monfort are two of the investors in the development, built on land owned by taxpayers and operated by the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District.
“We’re the official watch bar or sports bar of the Colorado Rockies, so we consider our place to be the home of Rockies fans,” Ryan said. “Opening day is very exciting for us because our Rockies patronage and fanbase, as well as the visiting team’s fanbase, are going to see our place, many of them, for the very first time.”
Tom’s Watch Bar has approximately 18,000 square feet, including a patio and balcony. There are over 150 televisions.
“We also have the masters tournament happening the same weekend, so we’re expecting a ton of volume,” Ryan said. “But Friday will be baseball, baseball, baseball.”