By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – For the first time in more than a year, fans were at Allianz Field Saturday to see Minnesota United play.

The team’s home opener turned out to be a much-needed win for a popular, nearby soccer bar too.

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Before the game, several people with tickets to see the team in person hung out at The Black Hart in St. Paul.

“It’s a lot of nerves not even related to the game, just of having people again in the bar,” said Wes Burdine, the bar’s owner. “We’ve gone over a year without any sort of crowd.”

David Martin was one of the 4,000 people or so allowed in.

“You feel like you’re a part of the game on the field and the players reciprocate and it makes such a huge difference,” he said. “It makes a huge difference to you as a fan to feel like you’re a part of that.”

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Most of the people inside The Black Hart were decked out in Loons gear.

“We love being a place where people get together to commiserate or celebrate,” Burdine said. “It’s just one step closer to something close to normal again.”

Burdine was happy that that meant tips for his bartenders. ‘Normal’ also meant reuniting with good friends.

“It’s like an extended community for a lot of us,” said Andy Kahl, a season ticket holder. “This is what it’s built around. Last year wasn’t just soccer we didn’t get to see, but a bunch of friends we didn’t get to see.”

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Fans had to wear a mask except when eating or drinking and weren’t allowed to stand up at their seats except during key moments like goals.

David Schuman