Editors' pick

Summers Grill and Sports Pub

Sports Bar, Bar
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Editorial Review

Summers Grill and Sports Pub has served as the region's premier soccer-watching bar for more than 20 years, broadcasting around 800 matches a year. After a recent makeover, it looks better than ever.

The front restaurant area has been expanded and smartened up. Among the new additions (which you can see at Friday's "grand reopening") are a long marble-topped bar, more than a dozen high-definition flat-screen televisions, new booths, a selection of British draft beers and, most importantly, a separate ventilation system. The new front room is smoke-free, while customers can still light up in the smaller rear bar.

"Everyone says it's a challenge to do a nonsmoking bar, but I think we'll do well," says owner Joe Javidara. As area brewpubs and jazz clubs have chosen to ban smoking, it makes sense that one of the leading sports bars would, too.

Summers was the focus of international media attention in 2002 when Javidara decided to keep the restaurant open around the clock during the World Cup, broadcasting games live from Japan and Korea in the wee hours of the morning. He was rewarded with packed houses at 4 a.m., and later that year, Summers was voted best soccer bar in the United States in a poll run by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

"When we started in 1984, no bar wanted to show soccer. Any bar that showed soccer was a sissy bar," says Javidara, who grew up watching soccer in Malta. "Now every bar wants to show soccer, but most of the games are in the morning."

On a typical Saturday or Sunday morning, Summers shows between 8 and 12 live matches from the English, French, Italian, Spanish, Scottish and Turkish leagues on its 54 screens. A large international crowd bedecked in their favorite teams' jerseys and scarves gathers in small groups or at the communal tables, chatting in English, Spanish and Italian. When a cheer goes up in one corner of the room, heads swivel to see who scored.

Summers is known as the place to watch "the beautiful game," but Javidara points out that he tries to show every televised sporting event. Fourteen NFL games are screened every Sunday during football season. During March Madness, every game makes it onto at least one television, attracting alumni groups (including the local chapters of Oregon, Oregon State and Gonzaga universities) and basketball fans for food, drink specials and fellowship. Fans of baseball, rugby, Formula One racing and boxing aren't left out, either. (Check out the schedule at www.summers-restaurant.com.)

Thanks to the 10 satellite dishes that dot the Summers roof, says Javidara, "we can show 50 events at the same time" at any time of day or night.

He's not kidding. Take the 1998 World Cup qualifier between Australia and Iran, broadcast at 4 a.m. local time. That match drew the bar's largest crowd ever, as buses brought fans from hundreds of miles away.

"We had 300 people inside, and another 200 outside who couldn't get in, so we put televisions in the windows," Javidara says. "The police came around, wondering why all these people are standing outside. They said, 'You can't do this. They're going to have to leave.' And I said, 'You can't tell them to leave. You'll have a riot on your hands.' "

Despite its popularity, Summers was on the brink of closing last year.

"Our lease was finished in January 2003, and the new landlord wanted to put in fast food, something more profitable," Javidara says. When word got out about the sports pub's predicament, he marvels, "the Arlington County Board got 9,000 e-mails and letters [of support] from all over the world." The board helped him negotiate a new 10-year lease -- with options for 10 more after that.

-- Fritz Hahn (February 2004)