NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It's safe to say, last year's SEC Tournament cancellation is still a sore subject for Nashville bar owners.
"It was horrible," said Joshua Pemberton. "We purchased a bunch of inventory, we were ready for a big week, the SEC is kind of a kickoff event for the season."
When the tournament was canceled, Nashville Underground sat largely empty and all the food they had ordered spoiled.
"What are we gonna do? You know it was crisis mode," said Pemberton.
Ironically, the very same event that was the opening salvo for struggling Broadway business in 2020 could end up being a savior in 2021.
"It feels like Christmas in February for us," said Butch Spyridon, President of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation.
Not only will the 2021 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament play on, but they'll also compete in front of 20% of Bridgestone Arena's capacity -- which is around 3,500 fans. "13 teams coming to town is a huge shot in the arm for our hotel community," said Spyridon.
With only 20 percent capacity, general admission tickets likely won't be available. Universities will get to divvy up the tickets as they see fit. "Obviously each school gets an allotment, the players get an allotment and 3,500 doesn’t go real far," said Spyridon.
Pemberton is confident all of those basketball fans will have to go somewhere. He hopes somewhere is his bar. "This is why we’re here, this is what the people come to Nashville for," said Pemberton.
He's so excited, the man who used to shutter at the letters SEC now has a flag welcoming with the same letters welcoming everyone in.
"Nashville’s open, c'mon let’s play," he said.
Spyirdon is hopeful that if the tournament goes well, it will open up opportunities for bigger and better events as the year goes on.