PORTSMOUTH, Va. - The fall in March of 2020 was sudden and painful.
"The last thing I remember is we had the MEAC (Basketball Tournament). We do events for the MEAC," said Curtis Lyons, Co-Owner of Roger Brown's Restaurant and Sports Bar on Portsmouth's High Street. "The next Sunday we did $100 in sales."
Not only did COVID-19 restrictions force restaurants to close indoor dining, the 2020 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, a major event for Roger Brown's and other area sports bars, was canceled.
Shortly after, Lyons told News 3 restaurant revenues were down 90 percent.
So far, March of 2021 has been a different story, with the return of March Madness.
"I can just sense it, especially on the weekends, that guests are just excited to get out," he told News 3 this week.
On Thursday, the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament begins with the "First Four" play-in games.
Roger Brown's, named for the former NFL Pro Bowler and restaurant co-owner, intends to air them all, including Norfolk State's match with Appalachian State at 8:40 p.m., with multiple ways guests can experience the madness.
"We have a 90-foot bar," he said. "We also have a stadium area where we have sound at every table and four big screens so they can hear the game and watch the game."
The only thing keeping it from feeling like a traditional March Madness experience, he says, is the lack of bar seating due to COVID-19 restrictions. Lyons has adjusted by placing high-top tables at the bar.
Now, he just needs to get people inside with Happy Hour specials and extended St. Patrick's Day specials to get things rolling.
"Support your small business. Support your small restaurants and bars. They need you right now," he said.
Roger Brown's Restaurant and Sports Bar is open Wednesday through Sunday starting at 11 a.m.