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March Madness Plus St. Patrick's Day Equals Big Dollars

The combination of St. Patrick's Day and the start of the NCAA basketball tournament adds up to a business bump for local sports bars.

The start of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament (aka “March Madness”) is always good news for those who run sports bars.  But this year, there’s an added bonus. The 2011 tournament starts on St. Patrick’s Day, a national day to eat, drink and party if ever there was one.

For the sports fan, it’s the perfect storm.

The green beer will be flowing freely.  The corned beef and cabbage will be delighting the taste buds. And all eyes will be on that sea of flat screen TVs broadcasting  the action from the NCAA tournament.

For the sports bar operator, it’s a business bonanza.

“I’m sure all sports bars are going to be quite busy Thursday with showing the NCAA tournament,” said Pete Riopelle, owner of the on Main Street in Menomonee Falls. “We’re typically not a place that gets busy in the morning but for St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll be serving food and drinks starting at 9 a.m.”

Riopelle says Bugline will be offering plenty of food and drink specials, including green beer for $2.50 a pint. St. Patrick’s Day is a party event all by itself.  But when you combine it with the NCAA tournament, establishments like Bugline stand to do as much business or even more than they did when the Packers were in Super Bowl XLV.

“We’ve got 13 flat screens and three projection screens, each 77 inches wide,” said Riopelle. “With St. Patrick’s Day and the tournament, we’ll be just as busy as we were during the Super Bowl. The bar will be full.”

The scene will play out much the same way over at the on Appleton Avenue.

“We have 25 TVs and they’re all HD flat screen TVs for people to watch the games and four of them are 10-foot HD projection screens,” said owner Sal Zizzo. “The cool thing is you can watch all four games at the same time because there’s always at least four TVs within viewing sight.

“Because Thursday happens to be St. Patrick’s Day, it’s a double hit for us, though last year it was actually even better with St. Patrick’s Day on Wednesday and the tournament starting on Thursday. But we’re going to be swamped because it’s March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day. It’s one of the times of the year that I really look forward to because it’s a very busy time.”

Zizzo added that he, too, is expecting business to be as busy or even busier than it was for the Super Bowl.

Is it game time yet?

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