Steamboat Springs With the summer tourism season fading like evening sunlight, Steamboat Springs businesses are now competing for a small selection of customers. In that fight, winning over local football fans is a major strategy for many bars and restaurants.
"We love football season," said Danya Williams, a manager for eight years at Eighth Street Steakhouse.
Williams said the weekend bar crowd directly correlates with the quality of the football games being shown on the restaurant's two televisions. Eighth Street Steakhouse, like many other Steamboat businesses, offers generous specials to entice football fans. In a deal offered for the first time this year, a free round of shots for the entire bar will be poured if a second-half kickoff is returned for a touchdown on Monday night.
Williams said that hasn't happened yet this year, but "it would be a good time."
Several businesses go as far as giving things away. Lupo's, a bar not known for its food offerings, sets up a free buffet on Monday nights, serving items such as hot dogs, hot wings and chili. Owner Chad Gagliano said football helps bring his bar through the slow season and provides a crowd on nights that are usually slow, any time of year.
"Certainly the people who are here are going out to watch football," Gagliano said.
Even restaurants such as Slopeside Grill, which is only open on the weekends this time of year, laud their football offerings in recorded messages on their answering machines.
The Tap House owner Gary Saxe said keeping crowds steady during football season is a good warm-up for the busy winter season.
"We've been doing it for years," Saxe said. "It's really a part of our business. It's something we do and do well. It really helps in the fall season."
Saxe said that keeping the restaurant and bar busy during the fall season allows him to have 80 percent of his staff in place come ski season, whereas other restaurants have to scramble much more to assemble a staff.
"Football is part of the equation to keep us the year-round business that we are," Saxe said.
With about 40 TVs and a collection of satellite packages, Saxe is well positioned to capture a key sector of the Steamboat market: relocated
residents. Saxe guarantees that customers will be able to watch their game, "even if you're still an Atlanta fan." Saxe, who is originally from New England but is a self-professed, die-hard Broncos fan, said he recognizes the importance of this crowd. He even has a section of his bar dedicated to a group of Philadelphia Eagles fans that donated memorabilia to decorate the area.
"There's a lot of relocated people in Steamboat who don't live and die by the Colorado teams," said Saxe, who noted the distinctive nature of Eagles fans. "Philly fans are very animated, let's put it that way."
At smaller bars, fans have to make an extra effort to make sure their game makes it on to a limited number of televisions. Colleen Miller, who owns Sunpie's Bistro with her husband Mike, said people show up plenty early on Sundays to stake their games' claim on one of four receivers. The Millers, who moved to Steamboat from New Orleans and are originally from Philadelphia, said employees exercise some influence as well.
"It has a lot to do with who's working when," Miller said.
With so many people rooting for so many different teams, there's a potential for tension between fans. Most, however, say disputes are mostly limited to witty banter and good-natured ribbing, and rarely escalate to bar brawls.
At the Old Town Pub last Sunday, six different games were on six TVs, with each game appearing to have a hometown fan watching. An argument between a Broncos fan and a Raiders fan tracked a game between the two teams on the pub's big-screen, eliciting laughter from less-passionate bystanders.
"It's usually very healthy," Williams said. "That's kind of the fun of having a football team and someone rooting against you. Not too often have I had many problems."
Williams said it's not uncommon for rival fans to bet drinks on the game, such as making someone buy them a shot when their team scores a touchdown.
"That's what makes football fun," she said.
Even with a football crowd, mud-season business can be slow enough to make shutting down for a few weeks a wise financial move. Miller said Sunpie's plans to do just that from Oct. 22 to Nov. 16, when she and her husband will travel back to New Orleans and, among other things, attend a Saints game.