BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – Restaurants in downtown Bristol are among the most excited for the return of a full-scale race week at Bristol Motor Speedway. The weekend’s first race doesn’t come until Thursday, but already, businesses on State Street are seeing an increase in customers.
“Today, we’ve already noticed just since we’ve opened this morning, people coming in,” Delta Blues BBQ owner Travis Penn said. “You see the campers already driving up and down the road. You can tell the race fans are out and about. We’re excited, we’re glad to have them back in town.”
This weekend’s races will be the first to allow fans back in at maximum capacity since 2019, and Penn believes it will lead to full dining rooms.
“I think it will bring a bigger crowd,” Penn said. “In the last year or so with the races, the few that did come in seemed like they came in later in the week. So, I believe it is going to have a big impact this year.”
Down the road at Stateline Bar & Grille, John Estes feels that welcoming in a full race-week crowd is like welcoming in old friends.
“It’s just exciting for us because we finally get to see the people that we haven’t seen in – well, probably going on almost two years,” he said. “Seeing them come back in – that’s our main thing. We love the people that come.”
Estes also praised the generosity of past racing-fan patrons that have come through the door. This year, he said, that generosity will have an even greater impact after the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Economically, for the server and bartenders that are here, it makes their month,” Estes said. “You know, probably two or three months.”
While some restaurants have struggled and continue to struggle with staffing, both Penn and Estes confirmed their teams are ready to take on the weekend ahead.