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Posted January 31, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Area restaurants hang hopes on turnout for big game
By James Heffernan -- Daily Staff Writer
WINCHESTER -- It's the biggest game of the year, and normally a big draw for the area's dining hot-spots.
But this year, with the economy in recession, some local restaurant owners and managers worry that football fans will forego a night out with friends, food and their favorite beverage for a more frugal Super Bowl party, one that involves staying at home.
"I think everyone has been affected in some way by the economy," said Janie Weakley, a manager at Buffalo Wild Wings in Winchester. "But we're lucky. We've got a unique atmosphere and some pretty loyal customers."
Weakley hopes those customers will begin filing in tomorrow evening around game time. Buffalo Wild Wings seats more than 200 people, and virtually every seat has a clear view of one of the bar's wall-mounted TVs.
"We usually fill up in-house on Super Bowl Sunday. ... That's what we're hoping for."
Judy Shipp, co-owner of Double Overtime Sports Grille near Woodstock, is less enthusiastic.
"We're hoping for a big crowd, but the economy is killing us," she said. "I've heard so many people say they're just going to sit at home because they can't afford to go out."
Double Overtime, which features a pair of 67-inch plasma TVs along with seven other wall-mounted sets, seats about 90 people.
"Hopefully we'll have 45 to 50 [tomorrow night]," Shipp said. "That would be a good crowd."
Hard times are on the menu at many restaurants as consumers cut back on dining out. Same-store sales are sliding, commodity prices are climbing, and some popular chains such as Ruby Tuesday, Applebee's and Lone Star Steakhouse are having to close underperforming locations.
Glory Days has enjoyed success since its opening in Winchester, but last year the sagging economy forced the Northern Virginia sports bar and grill to abandon its expansion plans for the Interstate 81 Woodstock exit and put the land up for sale.
"The restaurant business is a pretty risky business to start with," Glory Days President and co-founder Jeff Newman said at the time. Add to the mix fuel prices, penny-pinching consumers and escalating food costs, and it's enough to make a company reconsider its investment, he said.
Shipp said she first noticed a drop-off in weekend business back in July.
"It's been very tough."
Like the chains, Double Overtime offers DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket, allowing fans to watch the game of their choice.
"That's saved us," Shipp said, but she wonders what will happen to business after this weekend.
The restaurant plans to begin hosting a Texas Hold 'em poker tournament on Sunday and Monday nights to get customers in the door.
Buffalo Wild Wings is looking to capitalize on take-out orders this weekend, which Weakley said are significant.
"Today and tomorrow will be big order days [leading up to the game]," she said.
Double Overtime has adjusted the prices on its menu and has been running more specials.
The Northern Shenandoah Valley dining scene is not alone this weekend.
The economy is hampering business at bars and eateries in Tampa, Fla., site of Sunday's big game, and Sports Illustrated and Playboy have pulled the plug on their normally lavish Super Bowl parties.
Contact James Heffernan at firstname.lastname@example.org
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