9 Things to Look for in a Sports Bar

Most people decide to go to sports bars for a specific reason. Sometimes it’s just plain ole’ alcoholism, but more often, it’s because patrons want more excitement than their couches and living rooms can provide. They aren’t at the game, but they want to feel like they’re part of an event, nonetheless. So, a sports bar has a certain obligation to its customers to provide that sense of place. Here are 9 ways that they can do that so you don’t feel like you’re watching a game at a morgue.

9. Waitresses
Duh. Cute waitresses do not necessarily a good sports bar make, but they sure don’t hurt. Anything involving jerseys or schoolgirl outfits is a +100 for the bar. However, they can’t just be cute. If there is a game big enough to get you to a sports bar, chances are it’s going to be crowded, and if it’s crowded, she’s going to need to be on her game. All the looks in the world don’t mean much if you’re stuck at the bar for 45 minutes after your team lost because she’s still running checks. Also, if the bar lets the waitresses drink with you, they get +1000.

8. Bar Games
Not every game is a barnburner. In fact, most aren’t. So there better be something to do if University of Texas is down 28 at the half (a frequent occurrence last year). I don’t want to feel like I’m drinking in a Dave & Busters, but I would like to know that if my attention strays from the game, I can saddle up to the Golden Tee machine and play 18 holes until the next slate of games comes on. The games themselves don’t matter too much. If you’re team is getting killed early on, anything to take your mind off the slaughter at hand will suffice.

7. Bulk Alcohol
This isn’t a necessity, but it sure is nice. Few things in this world foster a sense of community like a pitcher of beer. A bucket of beers is a distant second, but the pile of ice to throw at opposing fans is a nice weapon to have. If there are no other options, a fishbowl of mixed drinks will suffice, but only in case of emergencies. Needless to say, the variety of pitchers of beer depends on the variety of draft beer at the joint, so that’s an area for consideration as well.

6. The Right Fans
I certainly don’t think that having an overwhelming amount of support is optimal. Generally, I want the split to be about 70/30 in favor of my team. But I do appreciate it when opposing fans make some noise. If I’m outside of my house watching a game that I don’t want to attend in person for whatever reason, I want a sense of atmosphere. Jerseys, cheering, a knowledgeable crowd, and some excitement are all I’m looking for. Not too hardcore, though – the total fanatics who take the game WAY too seriously take away from the good vibes of a bustling sports bar. If the game doesn’t go a certain way, I don’t want to feel like I’m attending a wake. I’m still at a bar, and I still want to have fun.

5. Sound
If it’s a big game (any playoff game in football, last two rounds of basketball, hockey, or baseball) or a game in which the home team is participating, I want to hear the game. Loud, but not deafening. This balance can’t always be achieved, as bars are noisy by nature, and a bar that is loud by design is not the best place to hear much of anything. Put music on during commercials and timeouts, but let me hear the crowd and the announcers while there’s action onscreen. This also goes back to the crowd, as a flaky crowd will talk during much of the game, but a devoted crowd will wait for whistles to socialize. Like I said, it’s a very fine line.

4. The Right Number of TVs
More is not always better. Especially during college football season. Unless you have a superhuman attention span, it’s hard to look at an array of nine TV’s and stay focused on one. Fewer big TV’s are almost always better than lots of little ones. Get a decent number of big TV’s, then put a few smaller ones in locations with bad sight lines to the big ones. Not rocket science, but it’s amazing how many places don’t get this right, and just plaster their walls with TV’s to no one’s benefit.

3. Good Bar Food
Another “duh.” Most people are at a sports bar for at least four hours, during which time they will probably get ravenously hungry while drinking. Bar food has historically gotten a bad rap, but sports bars have become more and more savvy with their menus. Stick to the basics (wings, nachos, burgers, pizza, etc), but do them well. You’re seriously going to pay $150k for kitchen equipment and not be able to put together a decent pate of wings? Sharable, enormous and delicious. In that order.

2. Comfortable Seating
Many bars and restaurants intentionally put in uncomfortable seating to turn tables faster. McDonald’s chairs are actually rated for 15 minutes of comfort so the don’t have people hanging out for no reason. However, sports bars get precisely 0 turns during their peak operating hours, so you might as well allow your patrons to sit in comfort. Padded chairs and booths are both acceptable. Couches are awesome. Folding chairs and bar stools are a last resort.

1. Crowded, but Not Too Crowded
As I mentioned earlier, the quality of a sports bar will often come down to its environment. Is it a place where one can enjoy watching a game? People want excitement when they’re watching a game at a bar, otherwise they’d save their money and stay home. So while a sports bar shouldn’t be Cancun-packed with people, an empty sports bar is just as bad. Get some electricity in the place. Once you’re seated, you’re all set, so why not enjoy the crowd and the madness that occurs when you combine tons of people, sports, and alcohol?

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