KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It may be called March Madness, but for businesses all that excitement usually signals big March money.
“March is our biggest month. You’ve got St Patrick’s Day, you’ve got the Big 12 Tournament, you’ve got a lot of people coming in,” Westport Flea Market owner Joe Zwillenberg said.
Although they were still busy filling online orders, you had no trouble finding a table during the restaurant’s Friday night dinner rush.
Chandra Goebel and her husband were there celebrating her birthday, but noticed something markedly different.
“It’s kind of a bummer there’s nothing to watch, no sports at all,” Goebel said.
In the 48 hours leading up to Friday night, every major sports league suspended its season, and the NCAA canceled March Madness and other sports winter and spring championships altogether.
Westport Flea Market’s owner said cancellations and general concerns about going out in public have hurt business. But he’s hoping a special $1.69 burger promotion on St. Patrick’s Day can bring back at least some of the crowd on their usual busiest day of the year.
“You know, I think people are going to celebrate. I think people are going to have fun. I think people are going to do it a little more cautious this year,” Zwillenberg said.
The restaurant itself has also made changes to their self-serve burger bar, going with pre-packaged vegetables and individual condiment packets to try to prevent the spread of any germs.
But they aren’t cutting back staff hours.
“Maybe this month I don’t make as much, but my employees are still going to work. We are going to keep them working. It’s about the long-term play,” Zwillenberg said.
How long will this go on? Most events are canceled for at least 3 weeks or a month. But no one can predict what follows.
“I don’t know what the plan is. Do we shut it down for a month? Is it two month? You never know. But it’s affecting local economies, and I hope we get it figured out pretty quick,” Kansas State fan Josh Hockett said.
Westport Flea Market is mixing in some highlights of the Chiefs Super Bowl and Royals World Series to try to help fill the sports void on its televisions.