With the World Cup underway, many soccer fans are looking for somewhere to get their fix with other fans — and where else to do this but the numerous restaurants and sporting bars on The Danforth?
Establishments on Danforth Avenue are preparing for the waves of fans to come flooding in as soon as kickoff begins.
“We are expecting more traffic through our doors during the World Cup,” Rails and Ales owner Len Grammenopoulos says. “People from all over the world love watching soccer and supporting their home teams whether it’s Greece, Ireland, England, [and] this year will be special because we can all cheer for Canada.”
The FIFA World Cup first game was on Nov. 20 in Qatar, and play continues for the next few weeks.
When sporting events as big as this one take place, owners like Grammenopoulos have to start making adjustments to the business to keep up with the demand.
“We usually offer food specials or drink specials,” he says. “We usually have to add some staff to help with the crowds and try and really get into the spirit of the all the different games, no matter how early or late.”
Ontario’s New Rules
With the World Cup taking place in Qatar this time, businesses will have to deal with an eight-hour time difference. Some games could start as early as 8 a.m.
Ontario is allowing bars and restaurants to start serving alcohol at 7 a.m.
Based on past experience, Grammenopoulos is prepped and ready for the early start times.
Once when Team Canada was in the Olympics and the finals were on early in the morning, he and his team came in at 6 a.m. to prepare — and found a lineup at the door.
However, the timing this time has been a curveball to some restaurant and bar owners.
The manager of TKO’s Sports Bar & Restaurant, Mary, who did not want to give her last name, says that she will not be opening that early.
“I’m not going to be doing that,” she says. “You need a kitchen to do that as well, and you don’t know how busy you’re going to be getting with something like that.”
It’s easier if you’re a chain restaurant and already have a whole staff ready, she says. “Your typical Ma and Pa places have a little more difficulty and need more time to do this, because of staffing. I’m open until 2 a.m. But, I totally understand why they would allow us to open that early.”
More than a game
With each game being played in the World Cup, more fans are brought into each of the bars, bringing a whole community together.
Grammenopoulos says he loves to see these type of events and what they can do for people.
“When Team Canada plays whether it be for hockey, basketball or soccer, [or for the] Blue Jays or the Raptors, it’s pretty fun to watch a group of people from all walks of life, all ethnicities, come together to cheer on a team and forget about the world’s problems for a couple of hours,” he says.
It isn’t just the owners, who love to see this but Danforth-area people as well. Local resident Alex Gataki says he is ecstatic to go to the bar and enjoy the sport he loves with others like him.
“I’m so glad that I can finally be able to head to the bar and enjoy a pitcher with my buddies again,” Gataki said. “The pandemic took a lot of things away from us. I’m just happy it didn’t take the World Cup with it.”
For such fans there is nothing better than being in a bar surrounded with other football fans and, as soon as a goal happens, everyone getting up and screaming.
“That right there is truly the magic of sports,” Gataki says. “It doesn’t matter the colour of your skin, your race, anything. The love of the game is what truly brings all of us together, it helps to bring the world together.”