Painting the Town Scarlet: March Madness Setting in Across New Brunswick

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – March Madness is kicking off across New Jersey.

And no place will celebrate Rutger’s first appearance at the men’s NCAA basketball tournament since 1991 like New Brunswick.

Restaurant and bar owners are preparing for college students, alumni, and even a few casual fans who want to hop aboard the Scarlet Knight train to congregate downtown and watch Rutgers battle Clemson on Friday from 9:20 p.m.

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Tavern on George, Harvest Moon Brewery and Cafe, Fat Cactus Mexican Cantina, and George Street Ale House are some of the restaurants that want to host watch parties. The George Street Ale House offers its St. Patrick’s Day menu on Friday along with the specialty drinks.

Doug Schneider, the owner of Tavern on George, is expecting a large, socially distant, and safe guard party on George Street – including under the tent in front of his restaurant.

“We’re pretty much already in our socially distant amount of seating,” he said. “We were very excited and encourage everyone to come to New Brunswick and celebrate on George Street.”

The crowd that is certain to be noisy will be greater than it has been for a long time. Governor Phil Murphy’s new COVID-19 guidelines, which allow indoor capacity in restaurants and other businesses to increase to 50%, go into effect at 6 a.m. on Friday

Chris Paladino, president of the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO), which manages the Heldrich Hotel, says he would be surprised if 100-150 guests had already booked rooms for the night.

He also believes there will be some late check-ins on Friday night.

“We are optimistic,” said Paladino. “Hopefully we will see a deal. Hopefully we will help the restaurants. The Heldrich is a place where people can come and stay. People can stay outside longer and party, enjoy the evening longer and spend the night at the Heldrich. “

The Scarlet Knights (15-11) had an exciting season of rebound in the Big Ten after apparently beating their ticket to the NCAA tournament last season. The team was 20-11 when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and the tournament was canceled.

Coach Steve Pikiell has managed to keep the team focused in the face of their greatest opponent – no, not Illinois, Michigan or Ohio State.

The specter of COVID-19 hung over the season, Pikiell said on Wednesday during his press conference.

“It’s been a week of excitement and also a week to look back on the year we’ve had and (be) grateful for the many people who have kept us safe and healthy,” he said.

History also lurked in the shadows for most of the season as the Knights tried to earn their first big dance trip since losing to the State of Arizona on March 15, 1991. The Knights couldn’t hold a six point lead at halftime that night.

It was a different world – Michael Jordan was in the middle of his first NBA title run, “Dances With Wolves” dominated the box office, and widespread use of the internet was years away.

None of the players on the current squad were born back then, but that doesn’t mean the Friday game’s relevance is lost to players like security guard Paul Mulcahy.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Mulcahy. “You really told us a lot about the history of the program. Obviously, 30 years is a long time. None of us lived. But there have also been many people who have supported the program through its ups and downs in these 30 years. I am very happy for these people that they can experience this too. “

Friday’s game against Clemson will take place at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 9:20 p.m. and will be televised by TBS. Spero Dedes, Brandon Haywood and Lauren Shehidi are on the show.

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