NEW YORK - Opening Day is less than a week away and fans will also be back in the stands with attendance capped at 20%, so small businesses surrounding Yankee Stadium are busy preparing for the influx of patrons.
"I'm excited," says Joe Bastone, the owner of Yankee Tavern. "Number one, we're going to have a baseball season. Number two, that they're going to be fans in the stadium. I love baseball."
Easily one of NYC's oldest bars, Yankee Tavern first opened in 1927. Bastone started at the sports bar as a busboy in 1964 after his father and partners took over the establishment and he’s been helping to run it the past 50 years.
"I've been losing a lot of money, but I refuse to close," adds Bastone. "There was a point where I was doing five, six, seven, $800 in business and running a $2,500 payroll. So we've been bleeding money. I think I've gone through $150,000 of my money. With the stadium, it's only 10,000 people. I'm hoping by the end of the season, it might be up to 50%."
The 66-year-old is fully vaccinated and luckily has help from his daughter getting ready for the return of baseball in the Bronx.
"We're getting our menus ready," says assistant manager, Amanda Bastone. "We're making some improvements to the bar. Fixing some things up outside, our patio area is being painted."
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Meanwhile the co-owner of Yankee Twin Eatery, John Michialis is also fully vaccinated and he got an assist from his neighbors during this difficult time as Ball Park Sports Shop, a store chock full of Pinstripe souvenirs allowed Michialis to set up more outdoor seating in front of their shop.
"Ball Park souvenir shop gave us the access to build an outdoor seating for all the crazy Yankee fans," says Michialis. "All I want is normalcy, you know, the number one thing is to be normal and enjoy a baseball game."
Individual game tickets went on sale Friday and are currently available for Opening Day through April 21st. Fans in attendance over the age of 2 will have to take a PCR or rapid test or show proof of a full vaccination in order to attend a game.