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Fewer fans inside Madison bars for Packers championship game Sunday

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Friday night was quiet outside of Players Sports Bar -- quieter than Wendy Allen had seen in her 23 years managing the bar.

"It's a ghost town," she said. "It's not Schenk's Corners like it used to be."

Inside the bar, it was almost as calm.

"Pre-COVID, there would not be a place to sit here," Allen said. "We're at capacity with 24 people."

The screens plastering the bar's walls will all be tuned to the NFC Championship this Sunday, where the Packers will be taking on the Buccaneers for a shot at the Super Bowl.

But they'll have as few people as ever to watch them.

"Even for the Packers games, you think you're going to be busy, but how busy can you be with 24 people?" Allen said.

Setting up tables, chairs and TVs outside isn't an option for Players, since there's no room in front of the bar.

"If we did anything out front, there wouldn't be a sidewalk to walk on," Allen said.

This summer, they used a nearby parking lot -- but as the pandemic drug on, that was no longer an option.

So inside, they've got plexiglass along the bar, tables spaced out, hand sanitizer and reminders to keep masks on -- a snapshot of the way we have to celebrate together during the pandemic.

"I think people in Wisconsin know how to have these types of events," said UW Health's Dr. Jeff Pothof.

Dr. Pothof is hopeful that people, whether at a bar or at home, will watch the game and celebrate safely. He points to good work keeping case spikes down after the holidays.

"I'm not suggesting that a Packers playoff game is the same level as Christmas, but maybe in Wisconsin, it is," Dr. Pothof said.

His reminders: No large gatherings, or really even small gatherings.

"8-10 people, if you don't need to do that, you probably shouldn't," he said.

At Players Sports Bar, they're doing their best -- hoping case numbers keep falling so they can keep going.

"If this lasts another 6, 8 months -- and at 25 percent capacity -- I mean, if we could get bumped up to 50 percent capacity, it would enormously help," Allen said.

She says for now, it's the to-go food orders keeping them alive, but those can't make up for the large crowds they were used to having.

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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