South Bend businesses fear they will suffer from Irish football game restrictions

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By Kimberly James | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – South Bend businesses that usually depend on fans of the Fighting Irish congregating during home games are having to rethink their fall business strategy as the University of Notre Dame puts attendance limits on fall football games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Attendance at home games has been limited to 20 percent of the stadium’s capacity. The university has also prohibited tailgating on campus.

“Many small businesses in college towns count on the business brought in by sports,” Barbara Quandt, Indiana State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business, told The Center Square. “In a college town, much of the small business economy is driven by university activity. No college sports, no crowds to feed, house or entertain.”

Each home game brings in about $17 million in visitor spending to the county and $22 million for the region, according to Indiana Public Media.

“University activity attracts fans who stay in local B&Bs and hotels, they enjoy the local restaurants and bars, and shop in local retail stores, many of which are small, independent businesses,” Quandt said. “These businesses were hit hard by the economic shutdown and the limitations that followed. And, if they count on collegiate sports-related business, this may be the death knell for some of these small businesses.”

Notre Dame beat took in its first home game on Saturday, 27-13. It hosts South Florida at 1:30 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 19

A recent NFIB survey revealed that one-fifth of business owners feel they may need to close by the end of the year.

“These losses will have a significant impact on the Indiana economy,” Quandt said. “I can only imagine how many college-town small businesses will be on the line.”

Bar and restaurant owners are trying to come up with various ways to recoup some of the potential shortfall. Pat Mulligan of Mulligan’s Bar and Grill plans to set up a large outdoor tent and place 14 televisions throughout the bar, both indoors and outside. Pegg Dalton of PEGGS has met with a colleague to consider hosting an outdoor dining space at the gridiron in front of the former College Football Hall of Fame, allowing restaurants to host watch parties.

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