When Jon Taffer, host of the Spike TV show “Bar Rescue”, isn’t working to save one of the thousands of bars around in the country that have fallen into disrepair and debt, he can sometimes be found watching his beloved New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers.
“When I grew up in New York in the ‘60s and I was a young boy, I used to think the World Series was the best team in baseball against the Yankees,” he said. “Because it was in Yankee Stadium every year when I was growing up.”
Traveling all over the country for Spike as well as his other business ventures, Taffer is in the same place as millions of sports fans: Finding a place to watch their favorite team. So what makes a great sports bar? Fans, to start.
"There was a place a years ago in Detroit, unfortunately it’s gone and it’s famous because Billy Martin, the Yankees manager, punched a marshmellow salesman in the face years ago and it got him arrested,” he said. “It was called Lindell’s AC -- Lindell's Athletic Club -- and it was one of the oldest sports bars in America at the time. It was 50-60 years old, and it was this little dark wooden room with scratches in the wall and signatures of players who had been there.
"This was the worst bar you’d ever seen. But watching the game there was the most incredible experience in the world, because you're watching with real fans. So if you want to know where the great sports are in your town? Go where the fans go.”
A few more important things to have:
A well-designed seating area with well-placed TVs:
"No one wants to go into a sports bar and sit with you neck up or neck turned,” he pointed out. And some comfortable bar chairs also come highly recommended. After all, “Do you want to sit in a barstool for 7 hours or do you want to sit in a comfy chair for 7 hours?” Taffer asked.
"Sports fills a bar about 70 days a year,” Taffer said. “People think sports will fill a bar 200 days a year or more. Even in cities like St. Louis where they’re hockey nuts and they go to almost every game in the season, the typical sports bar does about 70 days a year in sports and the rest of the time they have to have great food, great beverages going.” Every sports bar, he suggested, should have a great burger, a basket item (think chicken wings or fries) and for goodness sakes, something that includes bacon.
It can also be a great way for bars to keep money flowing. "When you're on the West Coast football starts in the morning. On the East Coast it doesn’t. So great sports bars on the West Coast have breakfasts and lunches. At 11 o'clock you have your brunch, you start watching football. At 2 or 3 o'clock you have a burger. A great sports bar will serve you two meals because you're there so long."
A fun atmosphere:
This sounds like a simple one, but what's the best way to tell a bad sports bar? There's no energy. "A great sports bar doesn't just put sports on TV, they produce it," Taffer added. Have the staff get excited with the fans when their teams do well. "Give food away, do something. A bar should stimulate the excitement, emulate the experience of being at the stadium. Sometimes the game alone doesn’t do that, sometimes the staff has to do that."
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