Randy Smith is torn. He was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, but graduated from the University of Florida. Then again, Smith owns two bars in Scottsdale that are unofficial watering holes for the Florida Gators and Ohio State Buckeyes.
Smith can now ease his conflicting feelings with the knowledge he’s in the middle of a very lucrative week.
“Things are good, man. Things are good,” Smith said Friday night. As he said those words, the stereo system at The Swamp Restaurant and Bar began jingling with the sounds of cash registers from Pink Floyd’s “Money.”
The boosters of Ohio State and Florida share many qualities, such as passion and loyalty. And both groups enjoy the pints, shots and highballs of the night life, prompting many Valley taverns to do all they can to welcome football fans of either side.
“The most important part is, we put on a good show for these people,” Smith said. “So when they leave Arizona they feel like somebody took care of them, somebody was looking out for them.”
Of course, people want to go where everybody knows their names. Buckeyes will hang with Buckeyes, and Gators will chill with Gators.
John Eby, the owner of Acme Bar and Grill in Scottsdale, grew up in Ohio and his parents graduated from Ohio State. So it was only natural that he would strike up a relationship with Ohio State alumni when the Buckeyes played in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.
The Buckeyes have returned for bowl games three times since, and now Acme is a popular bar for those wearing scarlet and gray.
“They’re a great crowd, great to work with,” Eby said. “And lots of them come, wooo!”
Eby estimates that in one week, he’ll do triple his usual business. He’s returning the favor by doing all he can to make the Buckeyes happy. On Sunday, for example, there will be the Ohio State alumni band, an impersonator of legendary coach Woody Hayes and the grand slam of “burgers, brats, beer and Bloody Marys.”
Mickey’s Hangover is another bar run by Smith, and it too is all Ohio State. So much, the Columbus Dispatch newspaper recently honored it as the “best Buckeye hangout.”
In anticipation of the crowds, Smith spent $10,000 on widescreen high-definition televisions. A JumboTron video screen will be set up outside, and he’s doing the same at The Swamp. Meanwhile, Mickey’s general manager, Doug Calvert, is hoping he has enough workers to handle the load. “I’ve been recruiting at every bar around town,” Calvert said. “We’ve got an army of staff working Sunday and Monday.” With Smith serving both Gators and Buckeyes, has he noticed any differences in their choice of refreshing, intoxicating fluids? Not really. “To use an Ohio State reference,” Smith said, “they’re three-yards-and-cloud-of-dust kind of drinkers.”