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Fans still flock downtown for Cleveland Browns' home opener

Crowds were smaller than in past years due to COVID-19, however.

CLEVELAND — FirstEnergy Stadium was emptier than usual at Thursday’s Browns home opener due to a crowd cap, but what about the bars and restaurants around it?

Blame it on a pandemic, a school night, or shortage of seats, but they did not see the same crowds as they have in years past. There was also no tailgating at the Muni Lot, as it has been banned by the city.

"We miss it so much," Lauren Wright said. "I mean, the tailgating is just kind of a Cleveland tradition, so it’s disappointing not to have it this year."

Still, the die-hards came out.

"Our first game, no preseason," said Don Coscia, who flew in from Denver to be here and stopped first at Barley House on West 6th Street. "Baker’s gonna ball tonight."

Places seemed to follow the rules: There were big plastic dividers inside Barley House and markers on the floor. At Jukebox in Hingetown, they took temperatures at the door and outdoor tables were reserved.

At Winking Lizard on East 9th, tables were meticulously spaced out and everyone sat. Kaleb Schweiger came with a group of Bengals fans from Cincinnati.

"There would probably be a lot more of us," h"Probably a bigger section of cheering, probably get the tickets a lot cheaper than what we paid for these, guaranteed that would be the case."

It is certainly not a normal year.

"We arrived to the game, we’re walking around, and it’s like, 'Did we arrive a day early?' Browns fan Stephan Morgan said.

Yet if fans were determined to be social, they were determined to make their presence count.

"We’re going to be the loudest 6,000 fans and make it feel like it’s 60,000 in there," Morgan added.

Like just about everything lately, it was about making the best of things.