Sports bars could see fewer customers if college football season ends before it begins

Big Ten, Pac-12 become 1st Power Five conferences to pull plug on fall football

Dick’s Wings and Grill owner Ken Elmore talks with customers on Tuesday. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The coronavirus pandemic could possibly put an end to the 2020 college football season.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Big Ten and Pac-12 became the first Power Five conferences to call off their fall football seasons because of concerns about COVID-19.

The first Football Bowl Subdivision conference to pull the plug on a fall season was the Mid-American Conference on Saturday, and then the Mountain West did the same on Monday.

These announcements are expected to impact Jacksonville-area sports bars that normally turn a good profit during the college football season. Two sports bar owners told News4Jax they’re concerned over growing speculation that the three other Power Five conferences could follow suit. If that happens, it would be hard for places like Dick’s Wings and Grill to bring in crowds of sports fans on Saturdays.

Big Ten, Pac-12 become 1st Power Five conferences to pull plug on fall football

Dick’s Wings and Grill owner Ken Elmore has been reviewing his profit margin from years past. He said the college football season typically brings a 25-30% spike in sales. But this is no typical year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already impacted his sports bar and many others.

“Places could be looking at a 40-60% drop in revenue because of the COVID effect if there is no college football,” Elmore said.

Greg Pratt, owner of Sneakers Sports Grille in Jacksonville Beach, said he’s also worried about the possibility of there being no college football this season.

“The nice thing about college football is it lasts all day long. People come in to celebrate their alma maters, one after another, and it’s a big part of our fall business,” Pratt said.

If the college football season ends before it begins, sports bars could see fewer people showing up. Fewer customers would mean fewer profits. And fewer profits make it hard to pay staff and buy food and supplies to keep these businesses running.

“If you’re not a skilled numbers person and restaurant operator, then it would be tough to survive,” Elmore said.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference are still moving forward with plans to conduct a season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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