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[February 25, 2013]
Progress 2013: Sports bars draw in crowds (with video)
Feb 25, 2013 (The News-Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- As self-descriptive terms go, they don't come much clearer than "sports bar." There are many such establishments in the area whose stock and trade is our love affair with competitive sports.
"What people look for in a sports bar is affordable, high-quality food and beverages along with an atmosphere conducive to watching their favorite sports teams on TV," said John Reece, owner of the Hooley House Sports Pub and Grille in Mentor.
The Mentor location of Hooley House opened in March 2009, and business has been so good that Reece and his son, Richard, recently opened a second Hooley House just outside of Cleveland in Brooklyn.
"Our philosophy is, we want to be part of the community and not just in it," Reece said.
On dozens of big-screen televisions at both Hooley House locations, people turn out to watch telecasts of the Browns, Indians, Cavaliers and other high-profile teams.
Telecasts of games involving the Ohio State University football and men's basketball teams also are big draws, Reece said.
Notwithstanding the popularity of professional and major college sports, at the heart of his business philosophy for Hooley House is a commitment to local high school sports.
"We definitely catch a lot of business before and after the football games for Mentor, Lake Catholic and some of the other high schools," he said.
Hooley House in Mentor is home to the "Varsity Chalk Talk" show every Monday during the high-school football season and every other Monday during basketball season.
"We get great turnout for 'Chalk Talk,' but the best part of placing so much emphasis on high-school sports is how it drives business to nights that aren't Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday," Reece said.
At the Quaker Steak and Lube location in Mentor, bar manager Miro Vokic said the Browns are good for business, win or lose.
"No matter what, we get great crowds for Browns games," Vokic said. "Ohio State (football) games bring in a lot of people, too. Football is the main sport for our customers, no doubt." There are 40 TV screens of various sizes at Quaker Steak.
"It's all part of the atmosphere, along with the race cars and motorcycles suspended from the ceiling," he said.
Vokic is rooting for the Cavs and Indians to become consistent winners.
"Right now, fan interest in those teams doesn't compare to what it is for the Browns," he said.
In months to come, Vokic said Quaker Steak and Lube will seek to raise its profile among area high-school sports fans.
"We get fans coming in before and after Mentor and Lake Catholic games, but we just began a new marketing initiative to reach out to fans from more local high schools," Vokic said.
3rd Base Sports and Grille recently opened in Eastlake's Centennial Plaza, just a stone's throw away from Classic Park. The Lake County Captains, a Class A farm team of the Indians, have been playing 70 home games a season at Classic Park in Eastlake since 2003.
Arthur Charlton, the owner of 3rd Base Sports Bar and Grill, is well aware that proximity to Classic Park is no guarantee of success. His is the fourth food-and-beverage establishment to occupy the space at the west end of Centennial Plaza on Vine Street in 10 years.
"The last couple of businesses here went the restaurant route. We come in with more of a sports bar mentality." Charlton said.
He said his menu places emphasis on burgers, wings, appetizers and similar bar fare. He hopes to attract business with trivia contests on Friday, live bands on Saturday and open mic comedy shows on Sunday.
"We'll be meeting with the Captains soon to explore opportunities for working together in way that will benefit both of us," Charlton said.
Also opening recently on Vine Street in the shadow of Classic Park was El Palenque Mexican Restaurant and Cantina.
"This is a great place for people who like sports and want to go somewhere with a family atmosphere," El Palenque owner Victor Alcazar said.
Alcazar owns another Mexican restaurant in Niles, quite close to Eastwood Field. That's the home of another Indians' farm team, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
"It helps to be close to a baseball stadium, but we didn't choose either location just because of that," he said.
Captains Vice President and General Manager Brad Seymour said that even though food and beverages are sold during games at Classic Park, the team welcomes the two new sports bars.
"We do not view these establishments as competition," Seymour said. "Rather, we enjoy seeing restaurants and bars come into the stadium neighborhood. We feel that it provides an opportunity to bring more people to the immediate area and can serve to enhance the energy around the ballpark." Seymour said it's likely the team will work with the two businesses to offer game-day specials.
The Indians this season will stage 10 editions of its radio pre-game show at sports bars in the Cleveland area, according to Senior Director of Communications Curtis Danburg.
"We think it'll be a great way to interact with fans and extend our brand," Danburg said.
Dates and locations of those broadcasts will be announced in the near future.
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