SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Local sports bars have struggled throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nevertheless, the return of football is bringing back a boom in business that hadn’t been experienced since the Super Bowl concluded in early February.
"I really didn't even expect this football season to happen,” Minnesota Vikings fan Kevin North said. “Even though things are way different than they normally are, it's great to be able to come to the bar that I love."
After months of uncertainty filled with constant closures and restrictions, some bars are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
"It's been a little rough you know,” Baja Sharkeez manager James Magee said. "It's a learning experience."
At O'Malley's, longtime owner Dan Baha has his TV screens hanging high above for the outdoor audience on State Street.
"We're not doing what we nearly did,” Bahan said. "You know what, we're open and that's the best part."
Each of these sports bars are under strict game day guidelines.
No customers are allowed to order directly from the bar and must purchase food with their drinks.
At Baja Sharkeez, seating is on a first come first serve basis
Once long lines begin to form outside of Baja Sharkeez, a two-hour limit on tables is enforced. For those seeking to stay longer, they’ll be charged an extra $25 fee.
“There’s definitely still just as much yelling I would say,” Magee said. “But it's a lot less volume of people."
Many football fans enjoyed taking part in Sunday’s festivities with their old friends.
"It's good to have sports back,” Philadelphia Eagles fan Matt Jacob-Mitos said. “We needed something to gather with our group, I missed all of these people."
"It's just different being at your house all bored and stuff for many months,” Las Vegas Raiders fan Santiago Perez said.
Although things weren’t the same as before, Sunday’s slate of games provided optimism for everyone.
"Hopefully the games stay good, people stay enthusiastic and stay socially appropriate,” Bahan concluded.
With the return of football season, many businesses on State Street say they’ve already seen a big boost in sales this weekend.