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Return of football kicks off season of brisk bar business

All across downtown Towson, both bar patrons and bar owners welcomed the opening weekend of football, beginning with the Ravens' season opener on Thursday, Sept. 5 at Denver and stretching through the Orioles' doubleheader.

"Football means busier times, bigger crowds and it creates a camaraderie," said Lauren Kassakatis, a senior manager at Towson's Charles Village Pub.

Thursday night, when the Ravens fell to the Broncos 49-28 in the NFL's showpiece season opener, was already a busy night in downtown Towson because of the local college crowd's return from summer break.

But after months of lazy summer Sundays when bar traffic slowed, the return of football adds a steady, profitable day to the calendar each Sunday.

"Summer is always a slower period," Kassakatis said. "There's just less people. People go on vacation, the kids go back home."

When football opened, however, many faces they hadn't seen since the Super Bowl returned to their regular football hangout. One group of people, which Kassakatis said started as six people watching on the second-floor patio, swelled to 40 on Thursday night.

At other bars around Towson, years of experience have brought a pretty strong understanding of what football season means for business. Brian Recher, a co-owner of the Rec Room and Towson Tavern, has learned that road games mean more business, though the team's recent success means crowds are never truly small.

"A home game is obviously a little bit slower, because that's 70,000 people they take out of your customer base," he said. "But the away games are always big, plus the fact that the Ravens are a contender always helps. If they weren't that good, they crowds wouldn't be as big."

Still, Recher has seen the college crowd bring several other fan bases through the doors on Sundays. He said Towson has a large contingent of Redskins and Giants fans, and that when there's a good slate of games on, it's not uncommon for a guest to arrive for the 1 p.m. games, order lunch, then get dinner during the 4 p.m. games.

Like Recher, Stephanie Keene, bar manager at Souris' Saloon, says they have a pretty strong base of fans when the Ravens are traveling.

"We're busier during away games, because a lot of our regulars have season tickets," said , bar manager at Souris'. "A lot of our regular loyal people have season tickets. I run into them all the time, and a lot of times we'll do tailgates together downtown."

When they're not downtown to see the game in person, Keene said she and road-game regulars "all yell at the TV's together, and usually (the Ravens game) is the featured game we have on."

During the Ravens' first few years, many of those regulars would take a bus down to the stadium from the bar and tailgate together. Those trips have been discontinued, but they still have a free picnic lunch at halftime at the bar.

"We love the Ravens," Keene said. "We're glad they come. It makes us busier, we all make more money and we get to root on the team. At the end, it's a win-win for us."

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