Super Bowl XVL is a boon for sports bars, but drinkers beware

Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar in Four Corners will be among the many sports bars celebrating Super Bowl XVL on Sunday.

FOUR CORNERS – For the world of sports bars, Sunday is virtually New Year’s Eve.
“The Super Bowl is traditionally a very large home party for us,” said Andrew Gross, president of Sunshine Restaurant Corp., the parent company of the Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar chain.
When the game kicks off on television, the sports bar’s large flat screen television sets are ready to show every moment – on screens so large that it creates the feeling of being right there on the field for the National Football League’s Super Bowl XVL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers.
“We do a tremendous amount of takeout business on those days if you’ve having a party at home,” Gross said. “But we also have the giant screens at Formosa Gardens where you can watch the super bowl. If you come here and get in front of the 240-inch screen, it’s as if you’re at the game.”
Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar, one of the top-ten fastest growing restaurant chains in the nation, opened its Four Corners location last fall, at 3099 Formosa Gardens Boulevard in the Formosa Gardens shopping plaza on U.S. 192. The chain is known for having a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere where people like to hang out with friends while enjoying New York-style wings with 14 signature sauces.
The chain is also known for its massive TV screens, which is why sports bars like this one become such a popular destination on Super Bowl night.
“We have both sides covered,” Gross said. “We do catering for parties at home, or you can come to the restaurant and we’ll have our typical football specials we put on. This is the game of the year, and we’re anticipating a very busy game at all of our restaurant. So if you plan to come out, come out early.”
But if you plan to stay for a while at any local sports bar, restaurant, nightclub or other public location and do some drinking during the Super Bowl, keep in mind that highway traffic patrols will be out in force. They know all too well about the risks of drinking and driving on Super Bowl night.
“We see first hand the consequences of people driving impaired, and that doesn’t always mean they’re impaired by alcohol,” said Sgt. Tom McKane of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. “During events like the Super Bowl, people tend to take more risks. The basic message we’re trying to get out is, get a designated driver, and don’t be impaired while driving. We want to remind people not to do that, that there are ways to circumvent drinking and driving.”
McKane is the chairman of the Lake County Community Traffic Safety Team, which promotes road safety through ongoing public education efforts. Their most recent campaign is to get out the message to football fans that if the Super Bowl XLV celebration will include alcohol, drivers need to decide how best to handle that before kickoff, and one way is to find a designated driver if they’re going to be among the ones drinking the alcohol.
“We want everyone to make the right decision for Super Bowl,” McKane said. “Having a designated driver should be an obvious call in everyone’s play book. Making sure designated drivers know how much we appreciate their responsible decision is what will make this year’s celebration extra special – and extra safe.”
The Community Traffic Saftey Team is sending out several tips to anyone hosting a Super Bowl party, including ensuring their guests designate sober drivers to take them home or arrange ride-sharing with other sober drivers.
McKane said hosts can find unique ways to recognize the designated drivers at their party, like giving them a great spot to watch the game; making sure their non-alcoholic beverage is always full; letting them have the first pass at the buffet table, or making sure their cars are easy to get to when it’s time to start driving people home.
Another tip: serve plenty of food and offer a variety of non-alcoholic drinks like soda, juice and bottled water, while serving measured alcoholic drinks.
This is a part of the national Fans Don’t let Fans Drive Drunk message supported by the National Football League, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the HERO Campaign and Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management (TEAM) Coalition. There’s even a web site, www.FansDontLetFansDriveDrunk.org that people can log onto.
Education campaigns, McKane said, definitely help sober up the public about the risks of drinking and driving.
“I do know that statistics have shown accidents are more apt to happen during New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl events and things like that,” McKane said. “You want to try every avenue possible to give the public something to think about, to think about the consequences of their actions and think about their own lives — and alternatives. That’s part of the reason why during the holidays we put our message board out there, advising people not to drink and drive. The ‘Over The Limit, Under Arrest’ campaign they see is the same message we repeat over and over throughout the state. There’s consistency in that message.”
The campaign hopes that by reminding people of the dangers of drinking and driving, people will choose to behave responsibly. A driver can add the numbers of local cab companies to their cell phone just in case, or simply leave their car keys at home if they plan to drink.
McKane said it’s always a challenge taking on traffic safety in Central Florida, which attracts so many national and international tourists – all with different views about drinking and driving.
“I think there’s a lot of people coming together here, and different demographics, and the may have different viewpoints on drinking and driving,” he said. “To some of them, maybe drinking and driving is looked on more seriously back home — or less seriously. We do have a melting pot out here.”
But if education doesn’t work, McKane said their other message is one of enforcement; Drink, drive and get caught – and be prepared for the legal consequences.
“We hopefully can reach those tourists and visitors and let them know we are conducting enforcement,” he said. “We are going out on Super Bowl night. This is a two part component. Education is the first part. We hope to educate the public through media releases and public service announcements.
“But if people fail to heed that warning or do the right thing,” he added, “enforcement comes into it. People might not like that part, but it’s the part we have to do. And if they drink and drive, they’re definitely looking at jail time.”

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