INDIANAPOLIS — Restaurants and bars in downtown Indianapolis kept busy Saturday as fans enjoyed the festivities surrounding the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
“It’s fantastic. It’s kind of what we’ve been waiting for. I think we needed something to kind of perk everybody back up,” said Jade Sharpe, director of operations at Kilroy’s.
Sharpe said although they are socially distanced and limited on how many people they can seat inside, they have been able to add an additional tent outside to allow for more capacity.
“It’s giving us a little additional space to make up for what we can’t seat inside, so it’s been good,” she said.
Georgia Street remains closed for vehicle traffic but open for fans. Many of the bars and restaurants located on it are able to expand seating safely by also adding outdoor tables and tents.
“When the weather started to turn and it got a little warmer, you could definitely tell that people were coming out, they were ready, they were excited, but this feels like what the tournament’s felt like before,” said Sharpe.
Ben Hardy, co-owner and executive pastry chef at Gallery Pastry Bar, located across from Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, said it’s been an exciting weekend for his business.
“Seeing people walk up and down the sidewalk and being downtown, the energy, it’s nice to see,” he said. “We’ve certainly seen an influx of just from the games being downtown. It’s been remarkable.”
The downtown festivities are drawing in fans from all over, including Ryan Barnett and his crew visiting from West Virginia.
“I didn’t expect to see this many people, but I’m loving it. You know what I mean, you’re here,” he said. “It’s good to see because the tournament vibe’s back. I’m extremely grateful to be here and to see all of the people here.”
Barnett is a first time visitor to Indianapolis and says he will be back next weekend if his team advances to the Sweet Sixteen with a win Sunday night.
“It’s been great. Everybody’s been extremely – as soon as we get here, everybody takes care of us so we’ve enjoyed it.”
“I love that it’s here! Look at everybody out. Everyone’s here, happy as can be,” said Patrick O’Connor from Minnesota.
“You know, people are feeling good, things are looking good, things are looking up. Everyone’s masked up, everyone’s trying to keep proper precautions, but I feel like there’s better days ahead,” he said. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and if March Madness can bring that, so be it!”
If you plan to head downtown, restaurant and bar management, as well as the health department, are asking people to continuing wearing a mask and socially distancing. They want to make this a safe and successful opportunity for fans to enjoy Indy.