When LeBron James decided to “take his talents to South Beach,” the whole city of Cleveland felt a pang of disbelief and heartbreak — chalking it up to another Cleveland sports disappointment. Restaurant and bar owners, too, feared people would flee from the establishments on game night, but Bob Vance, manager of Backstage Bar in Cleveland didn’t let LeBron’s departure deter him in promoting the Cavaliers, or Cleveland sports altogether.
For the past few years, Vance and his team have been running TAB-LUPA, a promotion that cuts bar patrons’ tabs in half when the Cavs score 100 points (patrons can open — or close — a tab throughout the game, but after the 100th point, everything ordered is regular price). Because of its success, Vance is now running the promotion during Cleveland Browns football games as well: When the team wins, patrons get their bar tabs cut in half.
“It was a originally the city getting behind the Cavs a few years back. Our area is a pretty big sports city — a lot of our customers are sports fanatics,” he says. Although there is the initial risk in cutting people’s bar tabs in half after the 100th point is scored, Vance says it’s one he’s willing to take. With the help of sponsors such as Bevinco to help with the cost, Vance says he sees profits go up anywhere between 100 and 300 percent on game nights as opposed to an off night.
Word-of-month, a large core of loyal customers and a Facebook page with 1,500 friends keeps the 38-seat bar and 40-seat dining room packed on TAB-LUPA nights, not to mention the 12 42-inch high-def TVs surrounding the bar and the $2.75 drafts that keep patrons coming through the door as well. “They’re coming in, and they’re spending more. And they’re coming out for every game,” Vance says.
With the air of excitement surrounding this promotion, which combines gambling and the loyalty many Clevelanders feel toward their local sports team, it’s no surprise the excitement is palpable at Backstage Bar on these nights. “The last minute that it’s getting close, that’s when everyone starts ordering more appetizers or drinks to run up their tab.” Even when that doesn’t happen, patrons are still in good spirits, “laughing it up because they didn’t think they’d have to pay full price.”
For Vance, the TAB-LUPA promotion proves Cleveland doesn’t need a sports star to draw a crowd to the bar scene. “I want to see this place packed and going crazy,” he says, and Vance knows that when there’s a large crowd at the bar it’s because of TAB-LUPA. The promotion, as risky as it sounds, certainly rewards Cavs (and Browns) fans with a cool venue and fun atmosphere to watch games and Backstage Bar with increased sales.