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Downtown businesses prepare for MAC Tournament

Posted at 8:55 AM, Mar 10, 2022

CLEVELAND — The Mid-American Conference basketball tournament is underway in Cleveland, and local businesses are gearing up for a March Madness weekend.

Usually, the MAC Tournament is when downtown businesses start gearing up for a busy spring and summer season, but with the NBA All-Star game in town last month, they have a jump start on the season.

“Too much business is a great problem to have,” said Sean O’Donnell, general manager of Flannery’s Pub on East 4th Street.

After the pandemic wiped out the 2020 tournament and last year’s event was limited to fans, O’Donnell said his business is already seeing a steady stream of people.

“We've had it (the tournament) for so long and then having taken away and that you can just feel the sense of normalcy coming back and people are people are ready to let loose,” O’Donnell said. “I think this is going to be probably the biggest year we've had in a long time.”

On a good night during the tournament, O’Donnell said business can double and sometimes even triple. The jump in sales is a welcomed sight for establishments that have seen two years of mostly empty bars.

“You went from sitting around having nothing to do like, oh my gosh, we have so much to do, and I have too few people,” said O’Donnell. "We’re all doing more with less right now.”

Typically, the MAC Tournament tips off a flurry of downtown activity with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner and Major League Baseball’s opening day shortly after. Despite a looming labor stoppage in baseball, O’Donnell said they’ve got no reason to panic.

“I've been here for an NBA championship, this is my 18th MAC tournament, my 20th St. Patty's Day, two World Series. We've been here a long time,” O’Donnell said. “Not much really scares us anymore, so we've got a pretty hardened, really veteran staff that can pretty much get through anything.”

Supply chain shortages are still causing problems for restaurants across the business, but over the past 24 months, they’ve gotten accustomed to making changes on the fly.

“You have to you have to kind of change your menu to go along with it,” O’Donnell said. “A lot of times, you know, it's not so much food shortages, it's more beer and alcohol. There's a lot of up and down and what's available.”

Flannery’s will host Kent State for most of the weekend, but fans and students from every school in the conference will be stopping by at some point.

“They’ll come in with the whole marching band that’ll march around the dining room,” O’Donnell said. “It’s a full-on event," he said.

RELATED: Tower City hosts free fan experiences and events during MAC Tournament

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