ACC Tournament creates bonanza for sports bars

Mar. 12, 2013 @ 05:52 PM

Sports bars and fans are gearing up for a financial and entertainment bonanza as the four-day ACC Tournament starts Thursday in Greensboro.

Bartenders in particular often feel flush with money by the time the games end Sunday, making this their favorite time of the year.

At Four Corners on East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, 20 high-definition televisions stand ready to bring the drama to patrons, regardless of their loyalties, although the overwhelming majority pulls for the Tar Heels.

“This past game with Duke was our biggest day of the year, by far,” manager and bartender Eli Smith said. “The ACC games keep people coming in here consistently through the day.”

The more crowded it gets the better, he said, “and makes it easier for me to pay my rent.

Go Heels!”

On the other hand, customers at Devine’s Grill and Sports on West Main Street in Durham prefer a darker shade of blue, and the bar is expected to be packed Thursday through Sunday.

“We’re built around sports here, and have over 20 TVs, so we do some really solid business this time of year,” manager and bartender Brad Fortier said.

Fortier said three bands and a DJ are booked for Sunday – St. Patrick’s Day – so that will bring in even more customers.

“We’re lucky to have St. Patrick’s Day coming as well as the ACC Tournament this weekend, so this could be one of our biggest weekends all year,” he said.

At nearby Satisfaction Restaurant & Bar at Brightleaf Square, bartender Cory Morenz is pumped for some serious fun.

“How do I feel about the ACC?” he asked. “More money, so I’m excited. This is a Duke bar, although we do get some N.C. State and UNC fans.”

The bar has 29 televisions, “so we turn on the sound for whichever games are popular for the clientele here. It can be rowdy sometimes, but it’s really a fun place to be.”

At the Carolina Brewery in Chapel Hill, Matthew Clements, director of restaurant operations, expects a sharp uptick in business starting Thursday.

“We hope the Tar Heels will meet up with the Blue Devils,” he said. “That’s always good for business.” That matchup – if it happens – would be in the semi-final round on Saturday.

Sports fans are clearing their schedules to make room for the big-screen showdown.

Noah Long, an 18-year-old high school student from Hillsborough and a Duke lifeguard, hopes Duke beats Miami or UNC in the tournament.

He plans to watch the games at one of three places – the Green Room, a pool hall on Broad Street; Tyler’s Restaurant & Taproom in the American Tobacco Historic District; or at home or a friend’s house “with people who love sports as much as me.”

But for Eric Nickens, communications manager for the Durham County Department of Public Health, a UNC win would be an ideal ending to the tournament.

“Although I did not attend an ACC school, my allegiance has always been with UNC,” he said. “In fact, some of my East Carolina friends think I was dropped on my head as a baby – and those are probably the ones that also have that other shade of blue running through their veins.”

Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews says he’ll try to keep up with the scores during the business day on his Android phone.

“At home, I usually have to go into another room to watch the game, especially if it is close,” Andrews said. “My wife tells me she can’t take it, especially if it comes down to those last possessions and that last-minute shot.”

Andrews said he wishes “all of our local teams success in the tournament, but I have to cheer on that team from Durham – Duke.”

Tianhe Zhang, a Ph.D. candidate in the Duke University Department of Biomedical Engineering, has never forgotten that day in 1992 when Duke star Christian Laettner made history.

Laettner’s last-second, game-winning jump shot on March 28 pushed Duke to a dramatic, 104-103 victory over Kentucky in the East Regional final of the NCAA Tournament.

“Ever since I saw Laettner hit that shot – one of my earlier memories – I’ve been and always will be a Blue Devils fan,” he said.

Duke sophomore Lucas Metropulos plans to watch the games in a big way – on a 90-inch television at the Keohane 4E Atrium on West Campus.

“I am sure the Atrium will be very crowded with the dedicated and passionate students of Duke,” he said. “This time of year is very exciting for all college students and I am no exception. As a Duke student, academics and school spirit are large components of our Duke experience. Go Duke!”