Food Service & Agriculture, Retail, and Sports Business

Bars and restaurants ready for March Madness

March 15, 2018
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Atwater Brewery, founded in 1997, says its "brewing process" is more than 200 years old. Photo via fb.com

College basketball fans will be glued to TVs for the next few weeks, and many of those TVs will be located in local bars and restaurants.

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament begins today and culminates with the finals on April 2 in San Antonio.

Both the University of Michigan and Michigan State University are in the tournament, with the Wolverines facing 26-win Montana tonight in Wichita and the Spartans squaring off against Bucknell tomorrow in Detroit.

That’s great news for local entertainment establishments.

Viewership on the four networks (TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV) in 2017 was 61.3 million, according to The Statistical Portal.

The NCAA reported the first two weeks of last year’s tournament was the third-most watched event in the last two dozen years, with an average of 9.8 million TV viewers and an average of 10.2 million viewers following the 32 games online.

“With our original brewery in downtown Detroit, the first round games in Detroit and MSU playing at (Little Caesars Arena) makes it even more exciting,” said Mark Reith, owner of Atwater Brewery. “We will offer up specials and game watching opportunities for the West Michigan Spartans and any other hoops fans wanting to catch the games all day and night.

“We have TVs everywhere, so starting on Thursday at noon (through) the first weekend, especially, people will be there. They aren’t working; they’ll be eating and that’s a great thing. Maybe not for the (other) companies’ efficiency, but it’s just the excitement, everything around it. Everyone is in a happy mood and spring is coming.”

Although the Spartans’ game will be in Detroit, the local Atwater location will be celebrating MSU significant ties to Grand Rapids.

Reith said there will be an increase in production of Hey, Diddle Diddle, a beer named in honor of Mike Sadler, a Grand Rapids native and former MSU punter who died in a car crash.

Reith said he is expecting a 50 percent increase in sales at Atwater as many customers will come for lunch and then stay into the evening as the games unfold. The brewery’s seating capacity is 150 and there are eight TVs.

Chris Andrus, one of the owners of The Mitten Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, said it’s hard to measure how much of a financial impact the basketball tournament will have on the brewery’s sales, but he expects a full house over the next four days.

“We are full every day, but we definitely have more of a sports focus here,” Andrus said. “We are the only sports-themed microbrewery in the country that I am aware of, so we get a lot of sports enthusiasts in our place. March Madness will definitely be on the TVs here.”

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