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Downtown businesses anticipating crowds ahead of March Madness

Mark Weghorst
Posted at 5:50 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 16:21:37-04

INDIANAPOLIS — As we look forward to Selection Sunday this weekend and Indy at the epicenter of March Madness, the local owners of Slapfish Downtown Indy on Mass Ave. are preparing for the crowds and welcoming visitors once again.

A fast, casual seafood restaurant, “you order at the counter so it’s kind of a relaxed environment,” said Mark Weghorst, Slapfish owner. “But the food is awesome.”

Slapfish opened in July 2020.

“The community I feel really rallied around and knew that we were new and supported us and got us to where we are now,” Weghorst said.

Weghorst says they’ve made the best of opening in the middle of a pandemic.

“We do a lot of to-go,” he said. “That’s kind of been our saving grace through this whole thing. We are on DoorDash, GrubHub, Uber Eats, you can order online or call in and pick up. We can easily walk it out to you on the sidewalk.”

With the Big Ten Tournament taking place here in Indy, he’s hopeful it’ll bring even more customers; and using it as a dress rehearsal, ahead of next week’s March Madness.

“I think all of us, nobody really knows what’s going to happen,” Weghorst said. “If it’s going to be really busy, a little bit busier.”

To promote mask wearing, they’ll be giving away free face masks for every lobster roll purchased from Sunday through the championship game on April 5.

“We have people, and I have done it too, where you walk in a place and you’re like, 'I forgot to put my mask on,'” Weghorst said. “Some people leave it in their cars. So it’s not bad to have an extra mask laying around.”

The Marion County Public Health Department will be responsible for enforcing mask requirements at local restaurants and businesses, social distancing and restricting capacity.

“We are going to up our surveillance related to the different businesses, related to the March Madness and try to really continue to warn people,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, the Marion Co. health director.

But the mayor said they’re also relying on businesses to do their part.

“I’m confident that with hopefully very, very few exceptions, the businesses themselves will self-regulate and make sure that they are in compliance,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said.

With an uptick in business already from restaurants increasing to 75% capacity, “things seem to be trending in the right way and hopefully this kind of springboards things and gets people coming back downtown and excited,” Weghorst said.

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