Bar owners and workers in Maine might be rooting for the Patriots on Sunday, but when the home team plays in the Super Bowl it can actually mean a little less business for them.

Some bar employees say that when New England plays in the NFL championship a lot of fans hold house parties to watch the game, rather than meeting friends at a local establishment. They say bars still will be crowded, but not as much as they might be if, say, the Kansas City Chiefs were playing the New Orleans Saints.

“It’s a fine line, but the busy-ness can change a little,” said Jen Meader, the manager of Rivalries locations in Portland and Falmouth.

Bars, pizza joints and sports apparel stores are nonetheless preparing for Sunday’s big game.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans’ Super Bowl-driven spending will total about $14.8 billion on food, team gear, decorations and even new televisions. That works out to an average of $81.30 per adult, but in the Northeast, it’s expected to reach almost $95 per person. The total is down from $15.5 billion in 2016.

Likewise, the retail federation said that 182.5 million people plan to watch the game, down from 188.5 million last year. Of those who plan to watch the game, about 61 million will go to a party, 44 million will host a party and 13 million will watch from a bar, the retail federation said.

With those kinds of numbers, it’s an all-hands-on deck moment for some businesses.

“We actually make it mandatory to work the Super Bowl,” said Bre Knowles, the manager of the Domino’s Pizza on Forest Avenue in Portland.

That means about 30 pizza makers and drivers will be on hand Sunday to get the food to football fans.

“We just schedule everyone we have. When we’re hiring, it’s the first thing I tell them,” she said.

‘IT GETS SCARY IN HERE’

In the pizza business, Super Bowls that feature the Patriots – this is the ninth since 2002 – are the biggest, Knowles said, with thousands of fans in the area hosting parties to watch the game. And they all tend to call around 6 p.m., aiming to get hot pizza to the party just before the game kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

“So they’re all ordering at the same time,” she said, bemoaning the fact that she doesn’t have a pizza oven that can cook hundreds of pies at the same time. “It gets scary in here.”

If the Pats win, Knowles expects a second wave of ordering as the game winds down and partiers celebrate. A loss by the Pats usually means the parties break up without a second round of pizza orders late Sunday night, she said.

At Portland sports bars, Super Bowls that feature the Patriots make for a hectic day and night, even if there are a slightly fewer customers.

“It will still be standing-room only,” Meader said. “It will be crazy busy. The vibe will be, hopefully, great.”

She’s excited to see the Patriots headed back to the Super Bowl.

“It never gets old,” she said. “We’ve been so lucky to have them go so many times.”

Meader said both Rivalries’ locations – in Portland and Falmouth – will open shortly before noon on Sunday. She wishes the game started a little earlier because the crowd tends to dissipate once the game ends and many fans start thinking about getting up for work on Monday morning.

Other local sports bars also report a slight dip in business on Patriots Super Bowl days because of home parties.

Elena Corliss, the general manager of Binga’s Wingas in Portland, said excitement around the team is slightly off this year because the perception is the Pats aren’t the same juggernaut they’ve been in the past. Even quarterback Tom Brady noted this month that “everyone thinks we suck.”

Patriots fan Evan Bay of Portland looks over the home team’s merchandise Wednesday at Olympia Sports in the Maine Mall. There’s no question, says Joanne Kenny, communications manager for the Maine-based chain: The Patriots drive sales.

But a Patriots appearance in the Super Bowl always merits an uptick in interest, she said, perhaps more so this year with Brady’s future status uncertain.

“People might be a little more into it because they think it might be the end of Brady,” she said. Brady is 41, nearly ancient by professional football standards, although he has said he wants to play until he’s 45.

CAPPING A SEASON

Bob Waitkevitch, the owner of Fore Play in Portland, is excited about the Pats’ run to the Super Bowl after their early season struggles, and thinks it will encourage excitement over, and turnout for, Sunday’s game.

“Maybe it’s me, but it seems to have revived the crowds again,” he said.

Waitkevitch understands why people hold parties at their homes when the Pats play in the Super Bowl, but he said “at the same time, there’s something to be said for the atmosphere at the bar.”

Unlike at other sports bars, the crowd that leaves Fore Play after the game is often supplanted by another late rush around 11 p.m., Waitkevitch said.

“We have people coming in to console themselves or to celebrate,” he said. “We’re going to throw a party one way or the other.”

Those who want to enhance their viewing experience with a Patriots jersey or sweatshirt have been stocking up at Olympia Sports this week, said Joanne Kenny, corporate communications manager for the Maine-based chain.

She said some fans look to add to their collection of Brady or Rob Gronkowski jerseys or perhaps pick up something that reflects the team’s current slogan: “Still Here.”

“The true fans are still buying more of the same product and there have been some new players this year, like (running back Sony) Michel and that drives more sales,” she said.

Kenny said the stores will get a better read on this year’s Super Bowl business on Friday and Saturday, when the sales wind down and attention shifts to the game.

But for Olympia, there’s no question that the Pats drive sales, she said.

“Business is good when the Patriots are in the Super Bowl,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of orders for the (Los Angeles) Rams.”

 


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