With sports coming back on TV, fans begin to gather together again

With sports back on TV, some sports bars are seeing fans come out to watch events together, including Wednesday night's NASCAR race. (2020 , 2020)

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – When things are hopping, like on a Monday night during the Mark Brunell Show, this is what Sneakers Sports Grille looks like.

But, as it was for all restaurants for nearly two months, THIS is what Sneakers looked like. No games. No fans. No service.

Now that restrictions on restaurants have eased and sports are beginning to come back on television, sports bars are beginning to see patrons gather again to watch sporting events—although it hasn’t been quite the same as before.

“We got quite a few calls today about people wanting to know who was showing it,” Sneakers’ Chef Tommy McCoy said. “Our response is that people are excited for any kind of sporting event.”

McCoy says the weeks without work were hard.

“It was excruciating," McCoy said. "And for us, if you think about the timing, with sports being what we do. March Madness, TPC, hockey, the NBA--it all hit us at once so it was most detrimental, but we made it.”

Now, they’re getting back to it. Tonight during the rain-delayed NASCAR race, the patio was opened and capacity was about 25%. That’s by design. On Saturday, when another NASCAR race airs—they’ll open up to 50% capacity, including seating inside for the first time since the shutdowns.

“I just really wanted to make sure that we were ready," McCoy said. "I just wanted to make sure that our staff was here. It’s been hard getting everyone off the couch and say ‘Hey guys, start firing back up.’ So now that we’ve got a consistent staff and we have everything the way we want it, we don’t want to bring 225 people in here, then not execute. So, we’re ready now to deliver the Sneakers type of atmosphere.”

McCoy said it’s been a long wait, but maybe there’s a silver lining to all of this.

“We’re not taking it for granted anymore," McCoy said. "We know you used to be able to take it for granted you have to come out and watch a big football game with your friends have a good beer everybody’s high fiving and, you know, hugging and doing things that we can’t do right now.”

There are plenty of sports fans who are hoping for more chances to show that they aren’t taking it for granted anymore.