MILWAUKEE — The economic impact of the Milwaukee Brewers returning fans to the stands has neighboring businesses hoping to make up for lost revenue over the past year.
The lack of tailgating is creating extra business for area sports bars. Fans aren’t allowed to tailgate in the Brewers’ parking lots, but bars along Bluemound were packed Thursday given that they were allowed to shuttle fans to the stadium.
J&B’s Blue Ribbon Bar and Grill is allowed to open at full capacity and the first Brewers game of the year came with massive crowds.
“My wife and I, we came from two and a half hours away,” said Brewers fan Tyler Reynolds.
Reynolds said he attended his 19th straight Brewers Opening Day Thursday. With no tailgating allowed, he decided to give some bars extra service. As a bar owner himself, he knows the struggle brought on by the pandemic.
“There have definitely been some dead times, times that you rely on things to get you over the hump, parties, stuff like that and it was very challenging, especially through the wintertime, December, January for sure,” he said.
It hasn’t just been a tough year on surrounding businesses. One report claims the Milwaukee Brewers are projected to have lost $178 million in game-day revenue last year without having any fans in the stands amid a shortened regular season. The Brewers ranked 13th among Major League Baseball teams in projected lost revenue in 2020 according to the Team Market Report.
With a full slate of 81 home games in 2021, Kegel’s Inn in West Allis is already cashing in thanks to one player from the Minnesota Twins.
“We had a gentleman who’s German-born in MLB and he’s the newer guy on the team, and it’s his turn to get Easter dinner for everybody. So that’s pretty much what we’re doing, is he contacted us because we’re the most authentic German [restaurant] in Milwaukee,” said head chef Patrick Radlinsk.
But with just 25 percent capacity allowed inside American Family Field, hundreds of employees who typically work game days at the stadium remain laid off. Beer vendors like Ryan Strnad who brings drinks to fans in their seats are being told summer might be the earliest they can return.
“It really hurts because a lot of us vendors save that money, we save about half of it year-round, save the other half when we’re off during the offseason, so that money can go into our mortgage payments, our car payments, even sending our kids to school,” Strnad said.
Based on pre-pandemic data from the Milwaukee Business Journal, American Family Field is Milwaukee’s second-largest attraction behind Potawatomi Hotel and Casino in attendance levels.