Bars & Restaurants

The Suns effect: Playoffs boost Valley bars

Crowds are back to pre-pandemic levels


Vince Deright is finally getting a much-needed day off after 14 straight hectic days of work at The Porch in Arcadia, where the crowds have returned in droves thanks to a little help from the Phoenix Suns.

“It’s been crazy,” he said. “The Suns have been so mediocre or bad for the last 15 to 20 years. I understand that people are really excited. It’s pretty easy for the city

that hasn’t been to the finals in 28 years to rally around. It’s a different kind of atmosphere being in the city where the team’s from as opposed to watching two random teams play.”

With people pouring into Phoenix each game day to watch the Suns play, it can only be an economic boost for the city and its many bars and restaurants. A analysis showed that either the finals winner or loser outperformed the national average in year-over-year GDP growth in all but two instances in the last decade or so.

Deright said The Porch is nearly packed to levels he hasn’t seen since 2019, a relief after a long pandemic that has hammered the Phoenix bar industry hard for over a year. Now The Porch’s indoor tables and outdoor patio are filled with people every night, despite the triple-digit temperatures. It’s not uncommon to see strangers high-fiving or hugging one another as the hometown team takes on the Milwaukee Bucks on its long-awaited path to winning the city’s first NBA Championship.

For Deright, the Suns’ playoff run is coming at the perfect time as the Valley enters its slow summer months, which are typically very difficult for the local hospitality industry.

“In our location, people were ready to roll last May when we reopened, even with the restrictions and the mask mandates,” he said. “Now I’m even more excited for the Suns to be in the finals for business with it being the worst time of year in Phoenix. With the weather, no one wants to do anything when it’s 112 degrees outside. So it’s really helping our business across the board, all of our locations.”

Aside from Arcadia, The Porch also boasts bars in Tempe and Gilbert, which Deright says have also been seeing big crowds on weeknight game days.

“Sometimes on a certain night you don’t really want people to be hooting or hollering, like on a Monday, but on game day, bring your A-game,” he said.

It’s a similar scene at Gallagher’s Sports Grill and its two Phoenix locations, said General Manager Stacey Schottel.

In fact, she said this is “the most basketball fans we have seen in 10 years!” The last time the Suns came anywhere close to the playoffs was in 2010 when Steve Nash led the charge, though the team hasn’t made the finals since 1993.

Schottel said each location is full and takes reservations for large crowds on each game day; people seem relieved to have a reason to let out their pent-up energy post-pandemic.

“It’s a perfect storm,” she said of the playoffs meeting the post-vaccination era.

Gallagher’s is used to bigger crowds watching sports on its many TVs, but this series has felt different, said Schottel.

“We are usually busy for big sporting events, but this is very special,” she said. “Most people thought we would lose to the Bulls [in 1993]. But everyone thinks we can beat the Bucks!”

Gallager’s is offering food and drink specials for Suns games to help the celebrations along, including $5 Papago Orange Blossom pints, $6 jalapeno poppers and 1 for $3 or 2 for $5 deals on their Bavarian soft pretzels with beer cheese.

“We’re having a lot of fun and people are excited,” said Schottel. “Everyone has needed this after the past year.”

Over at Bevvy in central Phoenix, crowds are pushing wait times to two or more hours by the time each game starts. That means fans might miss the game altogether if they don’t plan accordingly.

“Due to our high volume, we do not take any reservations on Game Day,” said General Manager Liza Loewenhagen. “This tends to get our tables and seats full within an hour of game time in order for our guests to ensure their space.”

Loewenhagen said the atmosphere at Bevvy has been “electric” throughout this post-season and is giving everyone something big to look forward to every few days. Bevvy also has a second location in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale.

“For our venue and our brand, we tend to be a go-to spot for any sporting events,” she said. “This, however, feels special since it is our entire state showing pride in our home team.”

But, much like the Suns, Bevvy’s road has not been entirely smooth, Loewenhagen cautioned. With the restaurant industry still pulling itself out of the financial hole caused by pandemic closures and restrictions, some challenges remain. This extra boost helps, though.

“While it is a great relief to see our state and our industry thrive, we are still facing some challenges such as staffing or the current shortage of certain products, which makes it difficult to keep up with our current demand,” she said.