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New restaurant near Tiger Stadium 'cautiously optimistic' following SEC announcement

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BATON ROUGE - The Southeastern Conference's announcement on moving forward with a 10 game, conference-only football season is giving businesses some hope for their bottom line.

One restaurant that just opened across from Tiger stadium says they are now “cautiously optimistic” heading into the fall with a new possible format for LSU football to defend their National Championship title.

When you're sitting outside at the new Torchy's Tacos on Nicholson Drive, you can look right across the street and see Tiger Stadium. The owners are hoping that fans will be able to enjoy that view, and of course the tacos, after learning football is still on the table.

"Wednesday, July 22 was opening day. So we're on day number nine here at Torchy's,” managing partner Tony Mefford said.

The restaurant chain based out of Texas is still riding the early wave of customers wanting to get their first taste. Mefford says the response from the Baton Rouge community has been nothing sort of “awesome.”

But Mefford added that it's hard not to glance across the street and think about Saturday nights in Death Valley.

"Obviously, being located here right across from Tiger Stadium is a big deal for us at Torchy's. It's a big deal for this little shopping center here, Nicholson Gateway,” Mefford said.

The original grand opening date for the Baton Rouge location was pushed back from April 1 because of COVID-19 restrictions that were in place after the state saw its first cases.

"Everybody kinda has to roll with the punches,” Mefford said.

On Thursday, following the official announcement from the SEC and LSU on the tentative and still evolving plan for the 2020 football season, Mefford says it’s still a minor blow from what they were expecting pre-pandemic.

"We're concerned about not having the amount of fans on campus that we would normally have. It's disappointing for us being a Torchy's because we're from Austin, Texas. And Texas was supposed to play here, second game of the season, I think. So that was going to be a huge day for us. Maybe a record-setting day,” Mefford said.

But with some students expected to be back on campus soon, and at least the prospect of football being played across the street, it gives hope to the new business, and it's damn good tacos, after already being sidelined from COVID-19 once.

"I think there's gonna be plenty of tailgating regardless of what they allow in the stands. So I expect those five games here at tiger stadium to be a real boom for our businesses,” Mefford said.

Right now, under the current phase two order, restaurants are still limited to 50 percent seating capacity inside. The governor said on Thursday that's not expected to change within the next few weeks.

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