World Cup games are a real score for local pubs and eateries

fans cheering in sports bar

The FIFA World Cup is bringing a welcome surge in traffic to local restaurants and filling even the largest of Ottawa’s sports bars — albeit at odd hours.

Earlier this week, fans packed the Glebe Central Pub in Ottawa, standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the patio in the cold, said general manager Dave Hania, adding that the crowds stayed into the evening once the game was over.

“It was a really good game,” he said.

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Holiday bookings are already picking up, Hania said, and it feels like “business as usual” compared to the past pandemic holiday seasons. As a result, the World Cup has him extra busy.

Because of the time difference, the World Cup games are earlier in the day, which means the pub is getting a double whammy of daytime and evening traffic on game days, said Hania.

It’s a welcome boost after the past two years, Hania said, noting that it’s not just Canada’s games people are flocking to bars to watch — he’s expecting a lot of traffic when England plays, too.

On Sunday morning, “We’re going to be packed,” said Hania.

Tailgators on Merivale Road has seen the same increased traffic patterns, said general manager Morgan Bristow.

Big sporting events like the World Cup are “always a benefit to us,” said Bristow. He has seen an increase in the popularity of soccer in recent years, saying there is growing enthusiasm for the sport.

“Definitely, we’ve seen a variety of interest and with the unusual start times we’ve been opening early for several games and had an influx of groups that come for lunch and stayed after.”

The sports bar occupies 20,000 square feet and boasts 35 LCD screens, two massive 22-foot HDTVs and 43 pool tables.

With a capacity of 500 people, Bristow said game days have been bringing in at least 70 to 80 people. With holiday parties also beginning, Tailgators has been packed. 

“Staffing is always an issue for people in our line of work,” he said. “But we’ve had to bring in extra people to help accommodate.

“Fortunately, people have been making reservations,” he explained. “But we’re always both blessed and cursed by walk-in traffic.” 

Any time there is a sporting event on television, revenue increases for Tailgators by between 10 and 15 per cent, said Bristow. He estimates the World Cup has brought in at least that much of an increase, although he is also “knee-deep” in holiday events and party reservations.

Payment provider Moneris said it predicts the World Cup will kick off a surge in spending for bars and restaurants.

With files from Canadian Press

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