Sports bars fear big losses if Big 10 cancels football season

Cleveland restaurants brace for economic toll of fall without NCAA football

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - In the wake of reports that the Big 10 is planning to shut the 2020 football season down due to COVID-19, Cleveland area sports bars fear major business losses.

“This is just another gut punch. How do you get over it? We rely so much on college sports,” said Winking Lizard co-owner John Lane. “What is Saturday afternoon going to be like? It’s going to be a ghost town.”

Lane, who been vocal about statewide restrictions on bars and restaurants since March, believes some businesses will fail to rebound.

“It was just published by the Ohio Restaurant Association that 50 percent of [business] owners think they’re not going to be around in six months. I have to believe this will push the process along if there are no college sports,” he said.

Beyond immediate economic concerns, there’s growing speculation that the 2021 NFL Draft, scheduled for April 29-May 1 in Cleveland, could be altered.

Is the 2021 NFL Draft to be held in Cleveland, in jeopardy?

The NFL has not made a decision on the draft, but if the college season were to shift to the spring, the evaluation process for NFL teams would change dramatically.

“We are confident that if there is any need to change [anything], whether it’s during that [scheduled] time or to another time, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it’s as great as it’s going to be,” said David Gilbert, the CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission.

“Certainly we’re thinking about it every day and all of these different announcements we watch with a whole different set of eyes because of the draft [being] in Cleveland,” he added.

The commission expects about 250,000 people to take part in draft week festivities, giving the Northeast Ohio economy a boost of $100 million.

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