Campus bar Threes Above High is set to reopen on May 21 after being closed to patrons due to COVID-19. Credit: André White | Arts & Life Producer

Campus bars face financial uncertainty after The Big Ten’s cancelation of the 2020 football season. Credit: André White | Arts & Life Producer

First, it was the weeks of economic shutdown that pushed campus-area bars to the financial brink. Then, state regulation restricted when alcohol can be sold. And now, when bars would normally be looking forward to the high-revenue season during Ohio State football games, they are being pushed further into financial uncertainty.

The Little Bar barbacks Andrew Potter and Matt Barnett were looking forward to the football season to gain back some of the business the bar lacked this summer. But that quickly faded when the presidents of the Big Ten universities voted Tuesday to postpone fall sports with the possibility of a return to play in the spring. 

“Football seems kind of like the light at the end of the tunnel. Like, no matter what, if there’s OSU football on TV, there’s going to be people drinking,” Potter said.

Barnett said football season is the time that brings in the most money for bars, and the loss of the season affects not only The Little Bar, but also “every single one” of the bars on campus .

Scott Ellsworth, owner of Threes Above High and Fours On High, said in an email that the financial impact of the season ending is likely as great or greater than the loss caused by the curfew placed on his bars by the state. 

Campus-area bars have already faced pressure due to state regulations put in effect to slow the spread of COVID-19, and the loss of a football season only piles on more. But, Ellsworth said he is looking for new ways to combat the loss.

“What’s really the other option, lay down and die? Cry over spilled milk? No, we keep getting knocked down and continue to get back up and try to adapt and get creative. Same thing will happen here,” Ellsworth said. 

While some owners and employees of campus area bars looked forward to the football season to relieve financial burden, Dan Starek, owner of Leo’s on the Alley and Oldfield’s North Fourth Tavern, took a more cautious approach toward what the fall will bring.

Starek said although the loss will impact his businesses, he was not expecting to have a football season to begin with.

“You know, they were canceling sports. I said, ‘If things don’t get better quickly then I doubt we’ll have football season.’ So I’ve actually prepared to not have a football season this whole time, rather than hope to have a football season,” Starek said.

Starek said he won’t be sure how much the loss of football will impact the influx of customers to his businesses until students move in for the fall semester.