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SkyBox Sports Bar adapting to new COVID-19 challenges

Posted at 9:39 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 12:37:39-04

MILWAUKEE — While times are difficult for almost every business because of COVID-19, it may be most difficult for sports bars.

SkyBox Sports Bar on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive thrives on customers who come in for a place to watch a game.

Right now, there are no games.

And, no one is allowed inside anyway.

"You can hear the echoes in the walls now," Royce Lockett, co-owner of SkyBox Sports Bar, said. "It seems like the soul was taken out of the building since we don't have our normal customers here."

Lockett opened the sports bar just over five years ago. It's become a very popular location in the Bronzeville neighborhood.

"This is our Cheers," Lockett said, referring to the place where Everybody knows your name. "We have a good following and a good crowd that comes in every day and socializes. We miss that."

It was just over two months ago when the bar was packed for a Packers playoff game against the 49ers. Now, with sports like the NCAA March Madness tournament canceled, they are feeling the financial impact.

"That's how we thrive, off all of the sporting events," Lockett said. "With March Madness, I would be open at 11 o'clock in the morning with customers waiting at the door to come in. We missed that opportunity to have that revenue generated."

It's something very apparent for manager Shalesha Bergeron.

"This is a business where most of our money comes from tips," Bergeron said. "That has definitely taken a hit. I have all the staff asking when they can come back to work, or when is this going to be over? I don't have an answer."

Lockett says he's had to cut 90% of the staff. They still provide to-go orders of their full menu, including a crowd favorite "Soul Food Sunday" menu that would frequently sell out early.

So Lockett decided to extend the hours. It will help with sales, but he's more concerned about giving his customers a taste of the memories they used to share.

"People wanted some sense of normalcy in these trying times," Lockett said. "I know Soul Food Sunday was our meeting place on Sundays. Watch the game, have a home-cooked meal. That's why, in my mind, when people brought it to my attention, you run out at 2:00, what can we do? I'll prepare more to continue on with the tradition."

And even though times are tight, they want to try and donate some of their food to the local hospitals because they think the people working there need it more than they do.

"We are a part of the community," Toilisa Lockett, co-owner of SkyBox Sports Bar, said. "SkyBox is a community-based business. We really feel like we should be giving back. The finances, we don't want to think about that. We want to let them know we appreciate them. They're getting up. Some are working six and seven days a week to help out the community. Since we're part of the community, we want to give back to them as well."

SkyBox Sports Bar is open seven days a week from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., but on Sundays, the hours adjust to 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

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