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Restaurants prep for increased capacity for March Madness

Some looking to hire more staff for tournament
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Posted at 5:25 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 18:46:39-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marion County eased back COVID-19 restrictions for businesses and restaurants. The decision was made due to improvements in COVID-19 statistics and the need for changes ahead of March Madness.

As of Monday, March 1:

  • Bar capacity increased from 25% to 50%.
  • Restaurants indoor dining capacity increased from 50% to 75%.
  • Bars, restaurants and music venues can stay open until 2 a.m.
  • Gyms and other venues increased capacity from 25% to 50%.

“People want to sit at the bar top. They want to interact with the bartenders,” said Jeff Huron, General Manager at the District Tap downtown.

Huron says as the city prepares to welcome tens of thousands of people for the NCAA tournament, he’s preparing too.

“More food, more liquor, more beer, more stuff so we can sell more stuff. We’ll be ready for it,” said Huron.

Across the street, Kilroy’s staff is prepping as well. The restaurant looking to hire more than 20 people to help with the busy weeks ahead.

“During all of COVID, I probably lost about 15 servers just because they went to more hourly jobs for more consistent pay, we’ve probably lost 2 or 3 bartenders and probably a handful of security guards,” said Laura Roseberry, Manager at Kilroy’s.

Roseberry says they need to replace all of those positions and add more kitchen staff.

Huron is looking to hire for the District Tap as well. They need six or seven additional servers.

March is always a busy month for area restaurants with March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day, and while this one will look very different from past celebrations, local managers are hopeful that the recent changes to restrictions will reflect in their bottom lines.

“With us being able to have those two hours I do think we’ll see a larger increase in the sales coming that way,” said Roseberry.

Roseberry says the addition of bar seating is what she believes will make the biggest difference for their establishment.

“More than anything it’s satisfying our bartenders, coming back to work, getting more hours… they’re no longer just taking to go orders and making drinks for the other patrons in the restaurant,” Roseberry said.

Both Roseberry and Huron says the increase in dining room capacity doesn’t make a big difference for them.

“Our dine-in seating area pretty much remains the same because we do have to keep social distancing. For us being booth seating, it does stay pretty much every other booth,” said Roseberry.

“Unfortunately it doesn’t really add more seats,” said Huron.

Which is something Roseberry says is a concern considering the amount of visitors expected for the tournament.

“I definitely am nervous once these 20,000-plus people get to town we won’t be able to satisfy people and maybe get backlash from that. We won’t be able to have standing room which is what a lot of people enjoy for March Madness,” said Roseberry.

Restaurant staff is waiting to learn if Georgia Street will be shut down during the tournament which would allow for additional outdoor seating.

Downtown Indy, Inc. is encouraging people to head to Indy-Eats. The website is designed to help residents and visitors learn details about local restaurants. You can learn if a restaurant is open, the typical cost, if it has outdoor dining and what it is close to.