Monday marked the fifth Opening Day that the Holy Grail at The Banks has been open, and it was the busiest one yet, said Jim Moehring, a partner in the bar’s ownership group.
He said his establishment had a line beginning at 11:30 a.m., more than 4 1/2 hours before game time at nearby Great American Ball Park.
“I’d like to think it’s because we actually operate better, but we never know,” he said of the increased crowds.
Moehring said Holy Grail management started preparing for the big day nearly a month ago to make sure it had the right inventory and staff, which in this case involved about 80 employees working all day.
The Holy Grail also brought in additional doormen and bar-backs to help manage the crowds, he said.
On the inventory side, Moehring said the bar ordered six or seven times as much food and beer as it would for a typical Reds game day.
“I think we’ve become a tradition for people, the way the Reds and Opening Day have become a tradition,” Moehring said. “There are people that we see every year, and that we see for all of the games, too.”
Moehring said the late-afternoon rain slowed things down for a little while. As soon as the game’s rain delay ended, however, Holy Grail was back to packed inside and out, he said.
Across Cincinnati, bars were full and the beer flowed Monday.
Jeff Watson and Jeff Ely made the more than two-hour trek from Celina to experience Opening Day. It will be the first-ever Opening Day game for Watson, and something he can cross off his “bucket list,” he said.
“I’ve heard what a great party it is, and I had to experience it,” he said while drinking a beer outside Moerlein Lager House.
Ely, his childhood friend, has been to Opening Day 14 years in a row. He said he comes back every year for the camaraderie.
“It’s feeling optimistic about the season; being part of the crowd,” he said.
Lisa Taylor of Walton, Kentucky, was with a group that included her husband, Dale, at The Blind Pig before the game.
Although they are Reds season ticket holders, it was their first time Downtown for Opening Day, and Lisa was also pre-celebrating her Tuesday birthday, she said.
“Why would I not?” she asked, hoarsely. (She’d lost her voice cheering for University of Kentucky during Saturday night’s NCAA basketball tournament game.)
“It’s Cincinnati wrapped up in a box with a bow on top,” she added. “It’s like the soul of Cincinnati.”
Justin Wiener, general manager at the Moerlein Lager House, said it had an “absolutely fantastic” Opening Day.
“It went about as good as it possibly could have,” he said.
“The level of crowd we had out on the lawn and the number of people we had inside, it definitely feels like a record-breaking day,” he added, though he didn’t have numbers to confirm that as of Monday evening. This is the fourth Opening Day since the venue opened.
Rain hitting shortly after the start of the game actually helped business, with drinkers and diners hanging out a little longer than they might have otherwise, he said.
“It was just a really great crowd,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work in many cities, and this was one of the most fun days I’ve had (working in the industry).
“I would challenge any city to showcase Opening Day the way Cincinnati does,” he said.