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Sports bar looks to regroup without full-on sports

By Staff | Jun 17, 2020

Scott Marchetti, owner of Jersey’s Sports Cafe, (second from right) and the service staff on a rainy Saturday, looking to move past the challenges of capacity restrictions and the lack of televised sports. PHOTO PROVIDED

Among the businesses most impacted by COVID-19 pandemic closures and restrictions are restaurants and bars where many workers need the money they make in tips to help pay the bills.

Another industry is sports, where league play has screeched to a halt, with little idea as to when games will resume.

So, if you’re a restaurant that relies on sports to bring people in, it’s been a double whammy as those at Jersey’s Sports Cafe at U.S. 41 and Pondella Road can attest.

Like all restaurants, the eatery has only been able to seat at 50 percent capacity, and for sports, there’s auto racing, golf, more auto racing.

Scott Marchetti, owner of Jersey’s, said he was able to stay in business during the pandemic with take-out only for about six weeks before the governor started Phase 1 reopening at 25 percent and outdoor seating.

But it’s been slow, and the lack of sports, which should feature the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals and the heart of the baseball season, hasn’t helped.

“It’s been OK. We’re starting the slow season now, but we’re slower than last year,” Marchetti said. “We’re watching NASCAR and golf, and it’s weird watching sports with no fans in the stands. Being at 50 percent with no sports, we’re making the best of it.”

Restaurants were especially hurt, since March and April are typically the two busiest months of the year.

During the pandemic, the servers and people in the kitchen got as much work as Marchetti was able to give them, with five-hour shifts a few days a week.

The regulars continued to come, giving extra gratuities to the servers, since they weren’t working 40-50 hours like they were used to.

Things are now back to normal — everybody is working at or close to full shifts, even if Jersey’s isn’t offering daily food specials right now as it’s trying to catch up financially.

“We’re still doing our happy hour. But the half-price pizza, 50-cent wings, $5 cheeseburgers, I can’t afford to do that anymore. The numbers don’t add up,” Marchetti said. “Once we get back to 100 percent, we should be able to do what we used to.”

Marchetti expects things back to 100 percent soon and, in the meantime, is following guidelines with table spacing and the staff doing extra sanitizing.

“We were always very clean, but we’ve brought it to another level. Everyone has hand sanitizer and they’re wearing gloves. We’re trying to make people feel safe again,” Marchetti said. “Hopefully, we’ll also have sports, too. Hockey “

Marchetti said that he is hopeful they don’t have to do this again in the not-too-distant future, though it has crossed his mind.

“Everybody is thinking about it. Did you ever think we would go through anything like this?” Marchetti said. “I never did. I thought 9-11 would be the biggest thing we would ever go through.”

Jersey’s is at 13971 N. Cleveland Ave. For more information, visit jerseyssportscafe.com/