FORT MYERS, Fla. — Sunday, sports fans across the country cheered as professional football returned. Restaurants here in SWFL were also excited to see customers come back into their business to watch the games.
"We had no clue what was going to happen," said Buckett's Wings & More Owner Zachary Walker. "People are still a little skittish about going outside, but then again people are really excited for football."
Walker says the rain may have helped drive customers into his sports bar.
"It's a nice rainy day and what ended up happening is people were really excited to get out and come out and watch their team play. We had a great crowd. It definitely either met or exceeded our expectations," said Walker.
Sunday’s games all kicked off with a show of solidarity between teams to acknowledge the social justice and equality movements happening across the country. The movements began as a result of George Floyd's death while in police custody back in May. Walker says the solidarity displays created reactions inside his sports bar.
"Its a sports bar and everyone has their opinions. A lot of people are welcome to share whether you want to hear them or not. Some people stood up when the national anthem was being played and some people complained about the show but overall it was cordial," says Walker.
To keep the environment fun and maintain social distancing, Bucketts came up with a unique solution to keep parties at least 6-feet-apart. They alternate tables of people and tables of stuffed animals inside the restaurant.
"It is tough. People come here to socialize but we have to tell people 'hey, you have to back off a little bit' and that was a challenge for our servers. So we thought why don’t we just get a big ole stuffed teddy bear," says Walker.
Almost all of the stuffed animals were donated by customers. The restaurant also plans to donate their furry companions to the Southwest Florida Children's Advocacy Center in Naples to help children that have been victims of child abuse.
"Everyone walks in and they see Mickey Mouse hanging out with Donald Duck and they get a kick out of it," says Walker.