Bad air and ash were not going to stop some die-hard football fans from coming together to watch the NFL’s first game of the season
In Oakland, a struggling sports bar gave them the place to do it by reopening for the first time since the pandemic started and moving their entire operation outdoors.
It wasn’t the pandemic that employees at The Athletic Club Oakland were worried was going to keep people today, it was the bad air that at times left ash on the tables.
Despite that, people turned up to cheer and support this Oakland bar that hasn’t been open since March.
“I DM’d them last night and said ‘hey how is your seating going to work? What are the rules?’ And they replied this morning, I said, ‘all right I’ll be there,’” said Guillermo Ortigoza.
Ortigoza, of Oakland, is neither a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fan nor a Houston Texans fan, he was there to cheer for Oakland and support its struggling businesses.
“Today we are opening for the first time in five and a half almost six months,” bar co-owner Aaron Dolores said.
The bar teamed up with the city of Oakland’s Flex Streets Initiative to close down Webster Street. That gave the bar plenty of space to hook up five monitors and set up 18 tables to host an outdoor sports bar dubbed the “Town Garden.”
What Dolores could not have prepared for was Thursday’s unhealthy smoky air.
“We don’t necessarily presume this is for everyone,” he said.”
But, that did little to stop NFL fans.
“It didn’t stop us,” Ortigoza said.
Michael Issa owns a coffee shop nearby that caters to office workers. He says business has plummeted by 80% and with people continuing to work from home, Issa is praying for a hail Mary.
“Hopefully everybody comes back to work, we are just going to be just surviving now,” he said.
Back at the bar, most fans kept their face masks on, only taking them off to sip and eat.
“It's nice that we have more open spaces like this where there’s room for us to sit down. We haven't really seen anyone in a long time, I’m going a little crazy at home,” said Heather Ellis of Oakland.
The Athletic Club Oakland says Thursday night was a great run-through. The owners hope to continue to work with the city to have this outdoor viewing area for future football and basketball games this fall.