SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Often filled up with football fans on Super Bowl Sunday every year, Santa Barbara bars on lower State Street are preparing for a different feeling in 2021.
The county's current health order only allows outdoor seating, forcing bars without outdoor televisions to call an audible this year.
Some may opt to set up outdoor TVs before the big game, but some will forego a special Super Bowl set up altogether.
Institution Ale Co. boasts a large outdoor patio on State Street, but shift manager Xander Doyle says the brewery will actually be closing early on Sunday, with last call coinciding with the game's 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
“I feel like a lot of people are gonna either be going home and staying safe, you know, or going to the bars that do have TVs,” Doyle said. “For us to wheel TVs out there, I don’t know. It’s also just not really our style that way. We’re like a little bit more of like a simple spot, you know? So that’s just kind of our take on it.”
Doyle hopes the game will bring in more customers earlier in the day for to-go beer and pizza sales.
“In my opinion, probably more than 50 percent of what the Super Bowl is is people hanging out at home and stuff,” he said. “Especially right now, I feel like that’s kind of a little bit more encouraged, too.”
Aron Ashland of The Cruisery says his brewery also does not plan to add TVs to the outdoor patio.
“We don’t think it’s gonna be much of an event, because it’s on TV at home,” Ashland said. “So I don’t know that, who is gonna really think to go out to a restaurant to watch it.”
Ashland says customers likely staying at a table for more than two hours--and cheering when their team scores--could create more risk for virus spread. He also says the game may disrupt the outdoor patio's atmosphere, but Ashland hopes next year Super Sunday can return to normal.
Other businesses like O'Malley's Bar already have ample outdoor space with TVs, and are going all in on hosting customers safely.
“We’re gonna make sure everything’s working, TVs are working, chairs are sturdy, separated,” owner Dan Bahan said. “And we’re just gonna hope for the best. Hope for a few overtimes and hope people come out and enjoy it.”
Serving tables during the big game this year presents the added challenge of keeping everyone safe from potential virus spread.
“We’re gonna make sure, monitor people crossing over to other people’s tables and stuff like that, try to prevent it,” Bahan said. “As long as everyone keeps sitting at their table, ordering some food, having some beverages, washing their hands, keeping their mask on when they’re on their feet, that’s all we can ask them to do.”
Bahan is also happy to see his staff return to "full force" after going to a skeleton crew when only take-out and delivery were allowed.
Outdoor dining is once again allowed in Los Angeles County, but the county health order does not allow restaurants to turn on TVs for customers. That has sparked pushback from businesses hoping to attract customers during the Super Bowl.