Local bars address Nats vs. NFL issue

October 8, 2012

Nats fans watch a game at Duffy’s Irish Pub. (Evy Mages/For The Washington Post)

When I asked readers on Friday what their plans were for handling the Nats and Redskins overlap on Sunday, it was under the assumption that some would solve the problem by watching the games in a sports bar, where you could conceivably see both at once.

But then tweets started coming in, with tales of local drinking establishments eschewing the Nats in favor of Sunday football action.

To be fair, some of the businesses that reportedly chose to air the Redskins over the Nationals weren’t really sports bars. If you’re headed to a restaurant that advertises “casual but elegant” Italian dining, it’s likely that you might be disappointed by the offering at the bar’s single television.

But other bars that were mentioned, such as Hard Times Cafe, Union Jack’s and Public, are full-fledged sports bars with advertised baseball drink specials and Nationals logos on their websites. So I set out to find an explanation for the claims of playoff baseball rejection.

It turns out that in most cases it wasn’t really a rejection, just a matter of balancing priorities. 

“We pre-set our TV on Sundays, and we mostly cater to the football crowd,” explained Christian Ekberg, marketing manager for all Union Jack’s locations. “That being said, if someone requests that we put the Nats on, we would certainly accommodate them.”

Ekberg said that they do their best to meet everyone’s sports viewing needs; all you have to do is ask. Any location refusing to show the Nats on at least one television wasn’t following company policy, Ekberg said.

John Gliatis, general manager of Public in Dupont and Tenleytown, said that while the Redskins game was being shown on the big screen with the house sound, the Nats were shown on roughly half of the Dupont location’s 21 televisions.

“Anywhere you would have been in the bar, you would have been able to see the Nats game,” he said. “As soon as the Redskins game was over, we put the Nats on the big screen with sound. Local teams always get priority.”

The question of which local team gets the priority isn’t always an easy answer.

“I think you can probably relate to the fact that when it comes to Nats in the playoffs, we’re in uncharted waters,” said Joe Ratel, one of the managers of Hard Times in Clarendon. “There are times when it’s a balancing act and you’re trying to figure out what most people are trying to watch.”

According to Ratel, his bar has more than three dozen televisions, and while the Redskins did have command of the main screen and sound, the Nats were on “at least a dozen” of the secondary televisions. He admitted that when the Redskins game finished, they chose to let the Packers-Colts game play out before turning the main televisions to the Nationals game.

“A rookie quarterback beating an MVP quarterback is a pretty significant game,” he said, explaining that each manager makes the call for their bar (the Rockville location chose to feature the Nats‘ entire game). “I made a judgement call, but I’m human. I reserve the right to be wrong on occasion.”

Ratel also said that the restaurant has portable audio boxes that allow patrons to listen to whichever television they choose from their own booth, meaning a Nats fan could have heard the game even if it wasn’t on the big screen.

Other bars that got a Twitter thumbs down included Buffalo Wing Factory in Ashburn and Clyde’s and RFD in Penn Quarter.

Robert Hart, beverage manager at Chammps in Reston, chose not to show the Nats on any television until after 4 p.m. “We advertise football pretty heavily,” Hart explained. “We didn’t want to deviate from that since we’ve been doing it for so long. We turned the Nats on after the Redskins game was over.”

Hart recognized the disappointment and promised that if there’s a direct conflict next week, he would put the Nats on at least one of the bar’s 16 screens.

Duffy’s Irish Pub, which has made a name for itself as a Packers bar, remained loyal to its Nats fan following. In a post on Facebook, Duffy’s claims to have been “one of the only bars to feature the Nats even when they were awful.” For that reason, owner Andy Duffy made the decision to feature the Nats instead of the Packers Sunday. 

“Everyone’s on the bandwagon now, but that hasn’t always been the case,” Duffy said. “We’ve been supporting [the Nats] the whole time. We’re not going to stop now.”

Redline in Chinatown and William Jeffrey’s in Arlington also got honorable mentions for giving priority to Nats fans.

If there’s one thing that’s clear, its that baseball in October is something everyone in the D.C. area is still getting used to. 

“We’re all learning,” said Ratel, the Hard Times manager. “We love the Nats and their [playoff appearance] is extremely important to us. They have a place here and we want them to be a part of our sports programming. We just need to find a way to accommodate everyone.”  

In the meantime, be patient. If the Nats make it through the first round, there’s a chance they’ll overlap with the Redskins again next week, so call ahead if you’re concerned about which one will make it to the big screen. 

And as far as the sound goes, sometimes a break from baseball announcers is a good thing. 

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