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The green team: Sports bars cash in on Eagles fever

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PHOTO/STACY WESCOE
Matt Corsi, a bartender at Tocci’s Tailgaters Pub & Grill in Bethlehem, wears his Eagles hat while on the job to show support for the team’s winning season.
PHOTO/STACY WESCOE Matt Corsi, a bartender at Tocci’s Tailgaters Pub & Grill in Bethlehem, wears his Eagles hat while on the job to show support for the team’s winning season.

Joe Tocci, who runs Tocci’s Tailgaters Pub & Grill in Bethlehem, is a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan.

“But lately I’ve been rooting more for the Eagles, because they’re really bringing in the business,” he said.

Tocci, like most of those in the sports bar business in the Greater Lehigh Valley, has seen how the Philadelphia Eagles’ excellent season this year has bolstered business.

The Birds were 8-1 going into Sunday night’s game with Dallas – the best record in the National Football League and the best they have had in years.

The excitement that winning streak has generated has meant green on the backs of patrons and in sports bars’ cash registers.

“You can really see it,” Tocci said. “Last year, there’d be some crowds when the Eagles played. This year, it’s just huge.”

ARRIVE EARLY TO GET A SEAT

With sports bars from Reading to Bethlehem to Philly to South Jersey, P.J. Whelihan’s restaurant group is really reeling in Eagles fans.

Jim Fris, chief operating officer of the chain, said with P.J.’s reputation as sports bars, it always does well on Sundays, even when the Eagles aren’t having a winning season.

But this year, he said, attendance is staggering on days when the Eagles play.

“If there’s a 1 o’clock Sunday game, you better get here at noon, or maybe even 11: 30 a.m., if you want to get a seat,” Fris said.

NIGHT GAMES A BIG HIT

The biggest impact, Fris said, has been on Monday and Thursday night. He said Monday Night Football has been lagging in recent years and Thursday Night Football hasn’t really caught on enough to make up the difference.

Eagles’ excitement has filled those bar stools, however.

“Since the first week, Mondays and Thursdays have been really, really, really great when the Eagles are playing, where last year it was just a slight uptick,” Fris said.

CELEBRATING WINS

Even on the already popular Sundays, an Eagles win increases business even more.

“If your team loses, who wants to stick around? The game ends and everybody leaves,” Fris said.

“It’s like Grand Central Station in New York at 5 p.m. – boom – everybody’s going.”

If people are celebrating an Eagles win, however, they tend to stay around longer, maybe even catch the next game.

BANDWAGON

Most of the bars Lehigh Valley Business contacted said they aren’t doing anything special to specifically draw in Eagles fans who are jumping on the bandwagon. Those fans are coming in on their own.

In fact, Volpe’s Sports Bar in Allentown, where owner Robert Volpe is a Dallas fan and manager Jaime Volpe is a Jets fan, fans do the opposite.

“My father-in-law, [owner] Robert, has a jersey for every team that plays against the Eagles, and he always wears it for Eagles games,” Jaime Volpe said. “They love it. They rib each other.”

Yes, she said, there has been a bit of an Eagles bandwagon. Even her 11-year-old son has been begging her to take him to an Eagles game.

LOYAL, WIN OR LOSE

But, she said, she hasn’t seen as big of a jump in customers as some other bars simply because her clientele is made up of such die-hard Eagles fans who never miss a game.

“We’re actually down a little for home games, because a lot of them are such big fans they go down to Philly for the game,” Volpe said.

But the benefit of that is that those kinds of fans come out to watch the games, win or lose.

“Eagles fans have got to be the most optimistic,” she said. “They’re going to the Super Bowl every year in their minds, whether they win one game or 12.”

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