A whole bunch of the record 100,000-plus people who showed up for the first day of the NFL Draft in Philly apparently needed a drink.
Bars near the Ben Franklin Parkway and throughout Center City have been kept busy by the swarm of football enthusiasts. How busy? According to Tom Kehoe of Yards Brewing, which made a special Draft Day IPA, several bar managers placed emergency orders for more beer Thursday — they were running out faster than anticipated and wanted to make sure to be stocked up for the weekend.
“For the pope we saw pilgrims, for the draft weekend we’re seeing fans,” said Andy Farrell, beverage director at City Tap House, which has a location right off Logan Circle. “More out-of-towners than Made in America or July 4.”
“With the kitchen open though 1 a.m., we are seeing a good amount of out of town guests coming in for burgers and beers,” said Ed Hackett of Pub & Kitchen. Latenight biz at the Rittenhouse spot is getting a “much bigger” boost from the draft than from Made in America or the DNC, he said.
“Cinder was even busier than on New Year’s Day,” reported Alex Bokulich, director of operations for Craft Concepts Group, which also runs Bru, U-Bahn, Finn McCool’s and Uptown Beer Garden. He estimated business in general was as good as or better than during the DNC, though for that gathering, it was all private parties and special events. This time around, it’s organic: “We had tons of fans at all bars, as well as scores of recognizable Eagles and sports celebs.”
Another thing publicans are noticing about the crowds: They’re actually…really chill.
“The crowds were big, happy, and not even as loud or boisterous as I would have expected,” Bokulich offered.
“I actually heard a blue-clad Giants fan tell his little boy that NYC was tougher than Philly because if a dad and son wore Eagles jerseys in their town people would beat them up,” he said. He was tempted to take the bait, he added, “but how do you win in a situation like that?”
Right around the corner from the NFL Draft Experience on Callowhill, Kite & Key was a throbbing mass of bodies from early afternoon through the wee hours, but “people were out having fun and in a great mood,” said proprietor Jim Kirk. “Ages varied, but everyone was great. More well-rounded [than Made in America],” he observed. “Multi-generational.”
“The neighborhood was loud with helicopters and football fans,” said Terry Berch McNally of London Grill on Fairmount, which saw a steady stream of customers after 4 p.m. But, she noted, “No fights.”
“No issues at all,” said Farrell of the customers who packed City Tap from wall to wall on Thursday evening.
Not everyone was quite as lucky. On 13th Street, Bar had to turn away a few people because they were already too drunk to let in, per proprietor Jason Evenchik. But he still credited the draft with a sales lift there and other spots in his restaurant group, The Vintage Syndicate.
The draft is here through Saturday, so there’s still another two days for Philly bars to take advantage of all the extra people in town.
“It’s been a little busier,” said Evenchik. “We’ll see what happens tonight.”