Hopes for a BCS boost for local bars and stores were just shy

Published 5:30 pm Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ben Hillyer | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Bowie’s Tavern manager Cassie Souderes serves drinks to customers at Bowie’s Tavern during the Monday evening broadcast of the BCS championship.

NATCHEZ — Monday night’s national championship was far more than just a game to a number of local businesses. And just like the Tigers, local cash registers came up shy of expectations.

The night started out OK at local bars that had TVs blaring and extra staff on hand to work the expected crowd.

Bowie’s Tavern in Natchez had half-price hot wings plus red beans, rice, sausage and cornbread for anyone who bought a drink.

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“We wanted to throw something in,” Manager Cassie Souderes said. “In New Orleans on Mondays they eat red beans and rice.”

Souderes said she also did some decorating for the LSU fans by putting gold and purple balloons on the bar stools.

People started showing up at approximately 6 p.m. for the 7:30 kickoff, but the atmosphere was more subdued that she is used to seeing for LSU games.

“I didn’t even realize LSU was losing,” Souderes said. “Usually people are booing and hollering, and I know what’s going on without looking at the game. “

At Andrew’s Tavern, up the street a bit, the bar had opened on a Monday especially for the game crowd.

“Technically we usually aren’t open Mondays,” bartender Sam Brantley said. “We’re usually closed Mondays and Tuesdays but will open for special occasions.”

Though both bars saw members of the Tiger nation, neither establishment did what they had hoped for in revenue.

At Bowie’s the crowd maxed out at approximately 75 people, Souderes said, good for a Monday night but not good for a big game.

“We did way over $1,000, nearly $2,000,” she said.

But that wasn’t the amount for which the bar had been hopeful.

“We had less people than we thought. It’s normally a lot busier (for a game),” she said. “But it was rainy and foggy, and we figure a lot of people were at the game.”

Souderes said Bowie’s generally sees more people come in for regular season LSU games, and the fact that the national championship was on a Monday may have factored in to the crowd being smaller.

The story was the same at Andrew’s, where the crowd topped out at 15 frustrated fans. The crowd was better than a regular weekday, but not up to a normal game day.

“We had probably 10 or 11 that stayed the whole game, and five or six who would drift in and leave upset with the game,” Brantley said.

“We were packed Saturday afternoon (Jan. 7) and Saturday night. There were people everywhere (for the Saints playoff game),” he said.

Brantley said they prepared for a rush Monday night, but the extra bartender that was on stand-by was not needed.

Both bars said they were filled with majority LSU fans, and they cleared out pretty quickly once the game ended.

“There might have been a couple (of Alabama fans),” Brantley said. “But they didn’t say much.”

And once the game ended — or maybe before that — owners and employees at local sporting goods stores knew their sales would take a hit.

Sports Center in Natchez and Hometown Sports in Vidalia both saw increases in the sale of LSU shirts, hats and memorabilia this holiday shopping season as LSU was ramping up to a national championship game.

“We sold a lot during Christmas,” said Chip Sturdivant, who is the athletic manager at Sports Center. “We had people come here to see families and buy LSU merchandise to take back with them.”

Sturdivant said two of the top sellers were LSU fishing shirts and LSU dresses.

“The Columbia LSU dresses we had to reorder two or three times, and they sold out every time,” he said. “You looked up and they would be gone.”

Shirts and memorabilia recognizing LSU’s perfect regular season and SEC title also sold well.

“There was definitely an increase in LSU merchandise sold,” he said.

But by the end of Monday night, Sturdivant was ready to cancel orders.

“We had (championship) T-shirts pre-booked along with novelty gifts for the national championship, and we had to cancel those,” Sturdivant said.

Hometown Sports was also looking forward to the sale of a large number of LSU title shirts, manager Mike Bowlin said.

“We probably sold 200 to 300 shirts (before the game),” Bowlin said. “And when they got beat we had to cancel between 300 to 400 shirts. It hurt us when they lost.”

Bowlin said if LSU had won he expected they would sell all the shirts and all of the 100 hats they also ordered.

“We always do well when (LSU) does well,” he said. “When they won the SEC we did well and them going to the national championship helped. And before they played the game we sold a lot of shirts.”

Sports Center did find a silver — ahem, crimson — lining though, even though the store clerks sporting purple and gold just had to grin and bear it.

“We had a good bit coming in (Wednesday) asking (about Alabama merchandise),” Sturdivant said. “We have some people who have already booked (shirts).

“It’s a benefit for us that an SEC team won, so the lost revenue from the LSU people gets a little boost from the, not as many, but large, group of Alabama people.”

And some local liquor stores found success catering to crowds that skipped the bars for the comfort of their homes.

Jamiee Jordan and Sariah King worked at Hammer’s Wine and Spirits in Vidalia Monday and said that the store was busy from Monday morning until kickoff, but once the game started their business died down.

Jordan and King both said that beer was the most popular purchase before the game Monday.