BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The status of the LSU-Florida football game remains in doubt and is likewise making a few local business owners nervous.
Anyone who lives in Baton Rouge knows the economic impact of the Tigers. People here talk about the team year round, yet the Tigers only play in Death Valley seven or eight times per season. That makes each and every home contest of the utmost importance to the economy and the talk of LSU perhaps sacrificing their November 19 game against South Alabama in Tiger Stadium to instead travel to Gainesville to make up their game against the Gators is hardly getting a warm reception.
"We already have paid deposits of almost $10,000 for bands and other vital infrastructure for South Alabama weekend," said Jason Nay, general manager of Fred's Bar in Tigerland. "We plan these weekends four to six months in advance. Every LSU home game is vital to our business. Fred's and other local businesses strive to give home and visiting fans a pleasurable experience that has made Baton Rouge an attraction for any college football fan. It would be incredibly unfair to punish Baton Rouge, especially this year. LSU Football has become our relief from the stresses of earlier this year."
Those stresses have obviously been well-documented. The racial unrest following the Alton Sterling shooting and then police shootings, combined with the historic flooding during the summer months certainly hurt local businesses, and one local businessman is threatening to take the gloves off if the SEC hurts it further.
"All home games are critical for sales and income of all employees of Baton Rouge businesses," said Ruffin Rodrigue, owner of Ruffino's Restaurant and former LSU offensive lineman. "People budget and depend on home games to support themselves and their families. Losing a home game drastically reduces income for that weekend. If the SEC makes us give up one we will get together as a community and file a class action lawsuit against them. Especially after the worst economic disaster in our region's history."
Leo Verde, the general manager of Sullivan's Steakhouse, may not be ready to launch a lawsuit, but he certainly isn't ready to lose a boatload of cash either.
"A home game is not just a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium," Verde said. "It's more than that. It's a week of festivities that culminates on Saturday night. The way the momentum starts on Monday and just builds day after day. We have gigantic nights Thursdays and Fridays. Losing a home game means a list of hundreds of thousands of dollars to our city. Sullivan's would lose a lot of revenue, it could be a $100,000 difference for our restaurant."
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said he wants LSU and Florida to make up the contest, which was suppose to take place this past weekend but was then postponed due to Hurricane Matthew.
The postponement itself has been a hot topic for many LSU fans, who feel that despite the challenges of the storm, Florida had many different chances to play the game before now and made very little effort to do so. Sankey and the SEC are taking a ton of national heat for not stepping in and demanding the game be played before Tuesday, either in Gainesville, Baton Rouge or at a neutral site.
It will not be easy to arrange moving forward, but most people feel the game must be played.