Sports bar Jimbo’s Glendale

Sports bars like Jimbo’s in Glendale, above, and Fletcher’s in Peoria, right, are ready to serve up beer and wings for football season—though with social distancing restrictions, including reduced capacity.

Just in time for kickoff of the football season, West Valley sports bars reopen their doors—but with social distancing guidelines and extra cleaning. 

On Aug. 27, Arizona health officials reported Maricopa County’s COVID-19 infections had reached a “moderate” level of transmission. Arizona bars serving food then received the green light to allow dine-in service.

“A bunch of customers are saying how excited they are to come in, so I’m really excited, and it’s just in time for the upcoming football season,” said Eli Moran, Fletcher’s Sports Grill general manager. “It’s important to remind everybody to support your local businesses by eating out, and not just drinking out.”

Gov. Doug Ducey’s reopening directive included social distancing, mask mandates and no more than 50% capacity, noted Rick Jenkins of Tailgaters and IL Primo.

“Come Sunday afternoon, we’re going to have half the people we would have in here normally,” Jenkins said recently.

Jimbo’s Sports Bar & Grill in Glendale has invested in new sanitation procedures and will take additional measures that will help keep employees and customers safe, according to co-owner Michael Damico.

“We’re doing the best we can to provide the safety for everybody when they come in,” Damico said. “My main goal is trying to protect the people that come in. I want them to have a good time.”

At Fletcher’s Sports Grill in Peoria, Moran said Sundays are usually busy, but he expects a big crowd that will quickly reach the state’s capacity mandate. 

“We pulled all the extra tables, so I only have 60 chairs in the restaurant,” Moran said. “I wanted to limit exceeding the capacity as much as I could.”

Jenkins stressed that Tailgaters and IL Primo locations around the West Valley will be sanitizing on a regular basis, only serving seated customers and preventing patrons from congregating too closely.

“Once the customer is done with the menu, the menu is returned to the sanitizing station and sprayed down before they return to the rotation,” Jenkins said. “Our managers are literally wiping down our hardware every five to 10 minutes.” 

One thing that hasn’t changed: Customers can expect cold beer, heaping portions of food and football on TV at Jimbo’s Sports Bar & Grill. 

“I have a funny feeling we’re going to get an early crowd because they also know that I’m 50% capacity,” Damico said. “It’s pretty much first-come, first-served. They’ve got to get there a little bit earlier than they normally do.”

While eager for football season, sports bar owners are wary of helping stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re just trying to do the best we can to prevent anything from spreading and going back up again,” Damico said.