Pizza guy

Alex Modlin makes pizza in the kitchen at the Pizza Shoppe restaurant in St. Joseph. After a difficult year, the business is looking forward to a sales boost from the Super Bowl.

Last February, the Muny Inn erupted with cheers when Jet Chip Wasp turned the tide of Super Bowl LIV.

This Sunday, a similar scene would unfold at the neighborhood bar if Patrick Mahomes is able to work his magic in Super Bowl LV.

In between? There wasn’t quite as much to cheer about as bars and restaurants struggled to remain afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We suffered for a couple of months,” said Denise Lewis, the owner.

Just like last year, eateries and drinking establishments are expecting a boost in sales from Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This time around, the Super Bowl might be viewed as more of a lifeline for businesses that were forced to shut their doors, some for nearly two months.

“Everyone’s business took a hit,” said Ridge Morgan, owner of Norty’s. “I am hoping this catapults us and jump starts us for the year.”

A lot has happened in between the last two Super Bowls. Ridge remembers a good crowd for last year’s game, played at a time when the coronavirus was still a story lingering in the background. Three months later, bars in St. Joseph were among the last non-essential businesses allowed to reopen following a citywide shelter-in-place order issued in late March.

“We got through it,” Morgan said. “That kind of stung.”

Bars like Norty’s and Muny Inn, as well as restaurants that also plan to do a brisk business Sunday, can count themselves as survivors. The National Restaurant Association estimates that 17% of restaurants have closed, many of them family owned establishments.

“Restaurants are break-even and just kind of getting by,” said Bill Teel, executive director of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association. “Those that adapt and do more curbside do better.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues guidance on the operation of bars and restaurants, including the wearing of masks, keeping tables 6 feet apart and placing barriers at cash registers. More specific restrictions are up to state and local authorities.

In New Jersey, a statewide 10 p.m. dining curfew only was recently lifted. In Kansas City, Mayor Quinton Lucas eased a 10 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants last month.

In St. Joseph, the latest emergency order sought to limit the spread of COVID-19 at bars and restaurants without resorting to business closures or limiting capacity and hours of operation. The city requires 6 feet of social distancing and face coverings for anyone who is not part of the same household, except while eating and drinking. There is no medical exemption for wearing a mask in a bar or restaurant.

Lewis, at the Muny Inn, said she’s expecting a larger crowd for this year’s Super Bowl, so she’s focused on complying with health requirements while trying to provide a gathering place for customers who are starved for a sense of community.

“It’s a chance to get together with your family and friends,” she said. “That matters to a lot of people.”

Some are hoping that this year’s Super Bowl marks a turnaround, sort of the business equivalent of Mahomes connecting with Tyreek Hill on a third and 15. Pizza Shoppe, a restaurant on the Belt Highway, won’t be open Sunday evening but plans to do pizza deliveries up until 5 p.m. for private watch parties.

After a difficult period in 2020, initial interest offers a sign of encouragement for Pizza Shoppe.

“The Super Bowl is actually coming at a really great time,” said Paige Mazur, general manager of Pizza Shoppe. “We’ve already begun to pick up our business. COVID was definitely a weird year for everybody.”

Greg Kozol can be reached at greg.kozol@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowKozol.

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