While Calgary bars are eager to capitalize on World Cup soccer enthusiasm, they say early morning games will show how short-sighted they are.
Some bars are limiting extra hours of business to matches involving Canada’s national team at the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup because they just don’t have the staff to cover other matches.
“We’ll be opening for the Canadian games,” said Jason Stuart, general manager of the Newcastle Pub at 2307 17th Ave. SW “The times that are so early in the morning, it’s difficult to have those extra shifts for other games – it’s a bit too much.”
Additional alcohol serving hours granted by Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis are welcome, he said, but not always practical.
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“The liquor license allows us to open at 5.30am, but where do you get the staff to move in and what do you do with them when it’s January (after the World Cup),” Stuart said.
Even so, his bar has made reservations for groups of soccer fans, adding that the first three games Canada plays starting Wednesday are at hours that are not too difficult, ranging from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
“Those first few games work to our advantage and it could be a lot worse – we could be Budweiser as a sponsor and said we can’t sell anything at those stadiums in Qatar,” he said.
He was referring to a decision confirmed by FIFA that alcohol sales will be banned at the eight World Cup venues in Doha, despite Budweiser buying sponsorship rights for a reported $75 million.
Other bars like the Ship and Anchor, 534 17th Ave. SW, open their doors to earlier games that did not involve Canada, such as England vs. Iran at 5:40 a.m. Tuesday.
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Due to the time difference between Calgary and Doha, Bottlescrew Bill’s will also be located at 140 10th Ave. SW opening.
After a difficult time during the pandemic, the bar operators are pleased with the prospect of extra business offered by the planet’s biggest sporting event, said operations manager Jennifer Steward.
“After COVID, we’re excited for any tournament and we’re grateful that the AGLC allowed us to open early,” she said, adding those who reserve space to watch will be rewarded with FIFA swag.
But the days’ earlier start would expose a staffing crisis suffered by much of the hospitality industry, Steward added.
“It’s not easy having the extra shifts – staffing is definitely an issue, especially with the first Christmas parties since 2019,” she said.
“But we will find a way to do it. It’s a shame it didn’t happen in January because there are a lot of other sports going on at the moment.”
AGLC provided blankets approval to licensees across the province to serve liquor from 5:30 am. from November 21 to 28 and 7:30 am. from 29 November to 10 December.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will mark the Canadian men’s team’s first appearance in the competition since 1986 – its only berth to date in soccer’s top tournament – when it lost all three of his games and fail to achieve a single goal. Fans are hopeful for a better performance this time after the team topped the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying round.
The World Cup qualifying rounds have drawn a promising number of visitors to her bar, Steward said, and the Team Canada games starting Wednesday with powerful Belgium should be a good draw.
“People like to root for underdogs and Canada is definitely an underdog,” she said.
But she said a densely populated, ethnically diverse Beltline neighborhood adjacent to Bottlescrew Bill’s should bring in a decent number of patrons cheering on other teams.
“There’s a lot of interest in the Canada and England games, but it’s hard to say for sure until it actually happens,” Steward said.
“Any opportunity we have to showcase, why not take it?”
Chris Theodossopoulos said he hopes to get some extra business at his Atlas Pizza and Sports Bar, 6060 Memorial Dr. NE during the football extravaganza, but said its available workforce will be stretched.
“Staff is the biggest challenge — if we have to be open, it’s basically managers (serving),” he said.
And while he doesn’t expect crowds anything like hockey games broadcast to great attention during the early morning darkness, Theodossopoulos said he’s willing to play it by ear and extend his hours if business warrants it.
“We’re going to open early and gauge the demand,” he said. “Any opportunity we have to showcase why not take it?”
Opening its doors to teams like those from the United Kingdom and Mexico could be worth it and “if Canada goes further, all the better.”
But the bar owner said soccer will be hard pressed to replace patron favorites like hockey and NFL football for the foreseeable future.
“It’s not like a hockey game … World Cup was not a big draw for us last time,” Theodossopoulos said.
– With files from Michael Rodriguez