TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Lightning fans are supporting more than just their team during the Stanley Cup Final. They’re also giving local businesses a financial boost during the pandemic.
“We had to shut down, and we did to-go only,” said Allison Dougherty. “We’ve been here for five years, and it’s been the first time we’ve really had to close everything down.”
Like many businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, District Tavern in Channelside has felt the pinch, too. Dougherty is the restaurant and bar’s owner and operator.
“It’s fun to see people out again and smiling and laughing and enjoying life,” said Dougherty.
Part of that joy? The Lightning’s successful run for the Stanley Cup. Patrons have brought in their high spirits while leaving behind a boost some in the hospitality industry have so badly wanted.
“Business is getting better. It’s going to take some time, but it’s definitely getting better, and it’s good to see people out,” said District Tavern co-owner Beverly Benjamin.
Fans have been coming out throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs, leaving a sea of blue in the co-owners' business. They say a championship win would be a highlight of the year for Tampa.
“Tampa fans are very superstitious, so you’ll have people come in and they want to sit in the exact same seat they sat at when we won before. They want this table, and they’re going to position themselves as such,” said Dougherty. “It’s been really nice to have a lot of support, a lot of local people in the neighborhood and people coming in to support us.”
At Thunder Alley, dozens of Bolts fans flocked to get a seat in the shadow of Amalie Arena, some grabbing a spot in the morning hours before the puck dropped. The Tampa Police Department told ABC Action News there were no issues reported at Thunder Alley over the weekend, and as for a plan Monday night, TPD will have officers in place.
Fans explained that on the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, a Stanley Cup win would mean a lot to the Tampa Bay area.
“I honestly think that having the Lightning go so far and having the Lightning be a place where we can all come and hang out and take away the stress from work has been a really cool thing,” said fan Katie Uppercue.
“It’s bringing a little bit of normal back,” said fan Fred Ferrigno. “For so long, we didn’t even have sports. And now, a couple months later, we’re right in the middle of a great run, a couple hours away from winning the Cup hopefully. It just brings normal back to the city.”
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor sent ABC Action News a statement ahead of Game 6:
"The City of Tampa and the entire Tampa Bay region are extremely excited for the Bolts to bring the Stanley Cup back home. This is a town that knows how to throw a party (responsibly) and we look forward to doing just that. Go Bolts!”