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Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Tampa sports bars packed with World Cup fans

As the U.S. team advances in the World Cup, soccer frenzy is already giving a huge boost to local bars and restaurants, some of whom were packed to capacity Thursday. Ducky’s, The Lodge and The Pub all saw huge crowds for the match against Germany.

Some Buffalo Wild Wings locations were so packed during one recent game that Wall Street analyst Bob Derrington found the wait time for a table stretched to several hours, which led him to post a positive report on the company, which led to a 6-percent jump in the parent company’s stock.

“Places like The Lodge are up 20 to 50 percent, depending on the game,” said Matthew Lanza, a partner in the company that owns The Lodge, Ciccio’s Restaurant Group. The pull of soccer grew to such a degree, he said, that some of his more traditional sit-down restaurants such as Daily Eats and Ciccio’s Cali saw a normal day of business turn especially quiet. Dinner and lunch crowds were drifting down the street into bars to watch games on big screens.

South Howard Avenue has turned into a soccer frenzy neighborhood, and The Lodge put a giant, van-sized tall soccer ball out front, while some U.S. team fan clubs have made MacDinton’s Irish Pub across the street their home base.

The English-themed The Pub bar/restaurant at International Plaza had World Cup games on every TV.

Ducky’s Sports Lounge on Kennedy Boulevard is a relatively new player in the sports bar scene, having only opened last year, but the place was packed to capacity for the last U.S. game against Portugal, spokeswoman Kelly Prieto said, and the site was full again for Thursday’s game against Germany.

Meanwhile, all those giant TVs tuned into games are creating huge ratings for soccer.

That recent U.S. v. Portugal match drew 18.2 million U.S. viewers on ESPN. That’s more than the total audience for all but one of last year’s World Series games, and more than any of the NBA Finals games, according to Nielsen.

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