San Francisco bars welcome influx of sports fans

The Golden State Warriors may have lost in overtime to the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night at the Chase Center, ending their season, but fans who flocked to watch the game at local bars took joy in watching the game face-to-face with friends for the first time in quite a while.

The San Francisco Athletic Club sat close to 80 people at its outdoor beer garden, while approximately 50 guests sat indoors, watching the Warriors game on one of 27 flat-screen televisions. Neil Holbrook, co-owner of the bar, was apologetic to guests he had to turn away once he reached capacity.

"We can start maybe paying back some of the debts that we occurred when we were shut down, which is very important," Holbrook said,

The bar's beer garden and outdoor parklet kept the business afloat over the last year and a half. With San Francisco in the yellow tier, allowing for indoor dining and drinking, more servers were brought in to accommodate the sports fan crowd, and at long last, a lively atmosphere roared throughout a suspenseful and high-stakes basketball game.

"I'm so happy about being back inside," Eddie Walker, a San Francisco resident, said. 

"I love hearing the noise, all the people around," Justice James, from Oakland, said.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed tweeted her enthusiasm for sports fans to come out Friday night, noting that the San Francisco Giants also had a home game.

Groups watching the game indoors said they hadn't gathered together to watch a game in over a year.

"It's just great, all of our friends are vaccinated. It's so good to be back in a bar where we can just hang out, the same energy as everyone around, a bunch of warriors fans," Mark Watson, a San Francisco local who lives close to the bar, said.

Masks were required when not seated, but come June 15, Holbrook expects to be allowed to do away with masks and seat even more people inside.

"It's fantastic, it really feels like we're coming back to something that we remember," Holbrook said. "Some normalcy again."