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Despite Empty Ballparks On Opening Day, Nearby Bars, Restaurants Want Fans To Support Their Businesses

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Major League Baseball is back after months of delays.

On Friday, the Cubs and the White Sox play their home openers, While fans are not allowed inside, it doesn't mean they'll stay away.

CBS 2's Jeremy Ross has more from outside Guaranteed Rate Field where it's a whole new ballgame for fans.

There will be TVs outside and plenty of tables. And for the first time in recent memory, all that will be happening on the pavement at 33rd Street.

There are soaring expectations for the Chicago White Sox. But opening day for fans and nearby business is grounded in the unknown.

"Weirdest year ever for sure. There's been a couple games already and it's been so quiet you don't even know they're there," said Stephanie Barberio-Lifonti.

Friday will be the bartender/server ninth at Turtles Bar and Grill. Last year, thousands ate and drank there for the home opener. The expectation is a fraction of that will do so this year.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions.

"We've lost a lot of business though all this," she said.

In an effort to help bars and restaurants nearby the ballpark, the city is shutting down a portion of 33rd Street from Wells to Shields. The pavement once hosting cars will instead allow for outdoor dining tables.

That will at least double the amount of outdoor seating for the business, spaced six feet apart, and perhaps double sales compared to an average day this summer.

"It's a big deal because we can't really fit that many people on the patio and it's only 25% inside so the street is going to be big for us," said Barberio-Lifonti.

Bill Guide, manager of Cork and Kerry said extra room translates to 30 tables in the street and about 150 chairs spaced appropriately. That's a five-fold increase in what he can normally accommodate on the sidewalk. His business is one of the taking advantage of the street closures.

"I think it's going to be great because we have all this extra room to work with," Guide said.

And he's hopeful that extra seating will allow him to hit last years number's, despite this year being nothing like 2019.

"My guess will be typical opening day sales-wise," said  Guide "The business model as it is today will have to change if we are going to survive."

Closures will take place several hours before the games Friday, Saturday and Sunday and open back up several hours after the games end.


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