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Iconic Gonzaga neighborhood bar Jack and Dan’s back open for NCAA Tournament

Forced to close for more than a third of 2020, the bar that may as well be the center of the Gonzaga universe welcomed fans back this weekend as the Bulldogs took the court.

Jack and Dan’s in the Logan neighborhood reopened in mid-February at 25% capacity, a limit that allows 43 people at a time into the watering hole that dates back to the end of Prohibition. As of Monday, the establishment can accommodate 50% of its capacity as the region moves into the next phase of reopening. That means increased seating ahead of Monday morning’s tilt against the Oklahoma Sooners, slated to tip off at 11:40 a.m.

When the NCAA canceled the basketball tournament in 2020, it marked the first of many missed milestones for the pub whose fortunes are largely linked to its next-door neighbor, said co-owner Kevin MacDonald.

“It’s huge for us,” MacDonald said of March Madness. “It’s our busiest time of the year.”

That was certainly the case in 2017, when patrons packed in to watch the Bulldogs fall in the national championship game. Jack and Dan’s won’t be taking reservations during the tournament, per its usual operating procedure, MacDonald said. Visitors can call the bar to see if there will be open seats, he said.

The doors were open for Gonzaga’s first-round game on Saturday.

By 6 p.m., Gonzaga fans, the oldest with graying hair and the youngest decked out in beads and jerseys, took their seats at Jack and Dan’s to see their team beat Norfolk State 98-55.

Jules Paterson, a senior at Gonzaga, gathered with a few enthusiastic friends in a corner of the warmly lit tavern, hooting at the TV.

She said games have become even more special to her as they’re one of the only times she gathers with friends now.

“Jack and Dan’s is the place to be,” she said. “There’s a legacy about it. The vibe here is always good.”

Jack and Dan’s still operates under the name bestowed upon it in 1975 by then-owners Dan Crowley and Jack Stockton, the latter the father of Gonzaga and Utah Jazz legend John Stockton. It was Jack Stockton’s idea to put the satellite dishes on the roof so that patrons could watch the Jazz games in Spokane.

The pandemic meant Jack and Dan’s had to forego its March Madness crowd, and then business during Gonzaga graduation and recruitment weekends.

“We’re not setting records in the summer,” MacDonald said, but still, road construction on Hamilton Street, and later a mandated closure in November brought about by spiking case numbers, ate into the bar’s bottom line.

That included the usual business before and after all of both the men’s and women’s home games, when the bar was closed and McCarthey Athletic Center sat empty, except for two of the top-tier basketball teams in the nation and their opponents.

MacDonald encouraged those who want to visit and partake of Jack and Dan’s bar fare and rotating taps to be patient and follow the health guidelines.

“We made it, and we’re going to move forward,” MacDonald said. “Just be mindful of other people.”

After a decisive opening-round victory, Gonzaga will take on Oklahoma late Monday morning in a departure from the usual Sunday afternoon games that conclude the tournament’s first weekend of action.

In order to stay at Phase 3 of reopening, counties will have to remain at fewer than 200 new cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period, and new hospitalizations at five or fewer per 100,000 people. The first analysis under the new rules is scheduled for April 12, after the NCAA Tournament ends.

Food service and restaurant businesses remain the largest reported source of COVID-19 outbreaks in Washington state outside of healthcare settings since the pandemic began, according to the most recent report by the Washington Department of Health. But just one restaurant-related outbreak was reported in the week prior to March 12, the most recent report, out of 58 such outbreaks statewide.

For those that want to stay home and order takeout but don’t have a traditional cable subscription, streaming services are available. Gonzaga’s Monday morning game will be broadcast on CBS, however, which means you can also stream for free on the NCAA website.

Staff writer Maggie Quinlan contributed to this story.