SANTA CLARA (KPIX) — The San Francisco 49ers opted to play their season opener without fans, but gave the ‘Faithful’ some hope, on Tuesday, when the team said communications with county health leaders were ongoing about the possibility of having fans sometime this season.
But while the 49ers defend their NFC Champion title this year on the field, already struggling business owners off the field will be counting their losses without football fans flooding into Santa Clara.
“We anticipated this to some degree, but it will keep us from hiring additional people, bringing people back that were here before,” said Jonathan Burgess.
He and his brother, Matt Burgess, own and operate the Churwaffle booth inside Levi’s Stadium. Last football season was their first year at Levi’s. The brothers said it was successful, especially as the 49ers won the NFC Championship, clinching their ticket to the Super Bowl.
The team shattered its own home game record with nearly 72,000 fans, and many South Bay businesses benefited from those attending the game or watch parties.
“There were talks about expanding our brand and concept throughout the stadium this year, because it was so well received,” said Burgess.
David Andre, an adjunct professor of tourism at San Jose State University, said just one football game without fans is a huge blow to the local economy.
“It’s just going to devastate the restaurants who are already suffering, and the lack of people coming into town is definitely going to have an effect,” Andre said. “They (Levi’s) usually sell out the games, they usually sell out the parking, that’s a tremendous amount of income right there. The restaurants near Levi’s stadium, some of them, record their busiest day of the entire fall season on 49er game day.”
The 49ers aren’t the only NFL team to start the season without fans. The NFL crafted safety protocols for its players, but left it up to each team to decide if they would allow fans to watch. Some teams have allowed a limited number of spectators to watch their games.
In fact, so far the 49ers have one game that fans will be allowed to watch, but that’s because it’s against the Dallas Cowboys, which is allowing fans into its stadium.
The 49ers said it will reevaluate later this season whether fans will be allowed back into Levi’s Stadium.
“It’s just a sad situation all the way around,” Burgess said. “Can’t wait until we get through this and get back to some sense of normalcy.”