During a normal year, the first week of January at the Esso Club would be quiet as Clemson University students returned from winter break and there was a lull in the school’s sports calendar. But, on New Years Day, ESPN called.
The sports network wanted to broadcast from the popular Clemson bar as a part of its coverage of the College Football Playoff’s final game, in which Clemson will face Alabama for the national championship. ESPN’s team arrived in Clemson on Monday and broadcast from the bar multiple times on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The network’s presence, plus Clemson students’ and city residents’ excitement for the game, has given the Esso Club a big boost in business, according to general manager Candice Bell.
“It would have been one of our slower weeks of a typical year, but the enthusiasm in the town for the team going to the national championship on top of ESPN being here has made us a lot busier,” Bell said.
The football postseason excitement also helps replace some of the business the bar has lost since the Clemson basketball team has been playing its games in Greenville, Bell said. The team is temporarily playing in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena while Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum is undergoing renovations.
Clemson apparel and memorabilia stores such as Tigertown Graphics have seen a boost from the pregame hype and successful season as well. The College Avenue store’s sales go up when the Tigers are doing well, owner Chris Bandy said.
“You kind of ride their coattails,” Bandy said. “When they do well, you do well.”
Sales for shirts commemorating wins against South Carolina and in the ACC Championship and Orange Bowl have been high sellers, but “when it’s going good like this, a lot of the time, it’s not just one thing. It’s everything,” Bandy said.
But there’s one thing Bandy’s shoppers have in common.
“They just want orange,” he said.
The rush of business will continue through the final game. Bandy is prepared to print commemorative shirts if the Tigers take home the national title, and the Esso Club is treating Monday night as if Clemson were playing at home. Bell said she hopes to fill the bar’s front parking lot with people to watch the game on a big screen. The Esso Club will also bring in additional wait staff to accommodate the high number of guests.
“It’s like a smaller version of a home game,” Bell said.