NCAA Tournament

Local Sports Bar Misses March Madness

Cali Comfort BBQ would normally be busy on the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament, but this year all the barstools are empty

NBCUniversal, Inc.

In a normal year this would be a holiday of sorts for sports fans. The first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament, with games starting in the morning and lasting all day.

Restaurants and sports bars like Cali Comfort BBQ in Spring Valley would typically be popular hangouts, but not this year.

"It's crazy to think that we're sitting in an empty restaurant, an empty sports bar," owner Shawn Walchef said.

That's the strange reality caused by the spread of coronavirus. The sports world is shut down, including the NCAA's premier event.

"One of the greatest gifts that we get as sports fans, which is March Madness," Walchef added.

The cancellation of the event happened to take place in a year where the Aztecs were expected to provide a lot of excitement in the month of March. The record-breaking sixth ranked team in the nation had a real opportunity to make the program's third Sweet 16, and perhaps make it further in the tournament than any previous San Diego State team.

"It's definitely a tough time."

It's frustrating for sports fans, but the stakes are much higher for those whose business depends on getting people inside the door.

"People are losing their jobs, and those jobs might not come back," Walchef said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom called for restaurants to cut off dine-in service, which Walchef says accounts for 70 percent of their business. So restaurants like Cali Comfort are having to adjust.

"We all have to do what's right," Walchef said. "That's what we did. We're following orders. We're only doing to-gos, we're only doing deliver and we're doing it in a safe manner."

Walchef says they are getting by with about 25 percent of their 55 employees. They are doing what they can to pay workers, while providing for customers.

"We have to fight. We have to fight like hell to do the best job we can to stay safe, to provide a service for the community and to do what we know how to do best."

He says he's not worrying about things he can't control. This March isn't going the way he expected. But as any good sports fan knows - there's always next year.

"We always have hope, so we're going to hope that next year the Aztecs can put another run together."

Contact Us