World Cup draws fans, fire prevention officers to Sacramento restaurants

Many local restaurants have scored big business with the World Cup, especially in matches featuring the United States. The crowds have been so mighty in some cases that fire prevention officers made the rounds at Sacramento restaurants during Thursday morning’s match between the United States and Germany.

Central city restaurants that were inspected for possible overcrowding included de Vere’s Irish Pub, Firestone Public House, Zocalo, Vallejo’s Restaurant and Pour House. Two pairs of fire inspection officers were on Thursday’s World Cup beat, counting heads and in some cases restricting new customers from entering eateries that reached capacity.

“We had a few citizen complaints,” said Ken Kwong, a fire prevention officer with the Sacramento Fire Department, during a stop at Pour House. “A few of us were detailed to go through and do occupancy load checks and make sure everything was o.k.”

A restaurant that goes over capacity is subject to a minimum $1,000 fine, said Kwong. As of noon Thursday, no Sacramento restaurant had received any fines.

Update: de Vere’s Irish Pub was fined $1,000 for going over its 164-person capacity. The owners will be meeting with the Sacramento Fire Department to have a game plan when World Cup matches bring large crowds.

“They worked with us, and we’ll work with them in the future on events like this,” said Henry de Vere White, the pub’s co-owner. “The city wants us to be safe. They’re not here to hurt business.”

Local bars and restaurants have turned into popular gathering places since the World Cup kicked off June 12. Unlike previous editions of the World Cup, where watching a live match meant waking up in the pre-dawn hours, the 2014 version held in Brazil coincides perfectly with Pacific Daylight Time. The first round matches are generally held local time at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. - all of which mesh with typical meal times or set the stage for a mid-afternoon snack.

Local World Cup spirit is boosted by overall excitement for Sacramento Republic FC, the minor league soccer team which has sold out games with more than 20,000 attendance since debuting in April.

All of this soccer fandom has translated into a significant business spike for Hot Italian. The popular midtown pizzeria has hosted bustling crowds to watch World Cup matches at its 200-capacity space. The games are broadcast over four TVs, and menu options that include breakfast pizzas, Italian style mimosas and Bloody Marys.

“It’s been huge for us,” said Andrea Lepore, co-owner of Hot Italian. “When the USA is playing, it’s packed. With FC Republic coming to town it’s elevated the excitement for soccer. We expect the crowds to continue.”

As the fire prevention officers inspected Pour House on Thursday morning, a spunky crowd cheered on the United States while wearing red, white and blue garb and chanting, “I believe we will win!” All of the tables and spots at the bar were taken, as folks nursed a pre-noon pint of beer or fueled up for the day with breakfast burritos and chilaquiles.

A similar scene is expected next week. Though the United States lost 0-1 to Germany on Thursday, Team USA still advances to the next World Cup round and plays at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

“The USA games are nuts, and they’re on at great times,” said Trevor Shults, owner of Pour House. “In terms of a business owner, it turns a regular day into Saturday night. It’s showing that the time’s come for soccer to be more prevalent in the United States.”

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