bringing the extravagance of nightclubs to sports bars
It's two days after the Super Bowl and there are still zillions of quarterbacks and news stations giving their two cents about the multi-billion dollar event. For sports bars it is a windfall but it also marks the end of the football season and the big bucks that come with it. The occasional big fight, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey and tennis all have their moments but college and pro football add heavily to the yearly black ink of sports venues.
What’s been interesting over the years, however, is how sports bars have started to evolve into full blown nightlife entertainment venues striving to be less dependent on sporting events. They have become more women friendly and their menus are geared to more sophisticated culinary tastes. You still get fries but truffle oils and other non-macho mixings are part of the scene.
Table service, open bars and top-notch DJs are adding to the experience that in the past has been better suited for their counterparts in the nightlife industry. Nightclub & Bar caught up with two pioneers in industry, Cole Bernard, managing partner of Bounce Sporting Club with two locations in Manhattan and Mathew Isaacs owner of Snap Sports Bar in Manhattan, that have succeeded in bringing the extravagance of the nightlife experience to a sports bar.
Nightclub & Bar (NCB): What is your current position?
Cole Bernard: I am currently one of the managing partners at Bounce Sporting Club. My role is to manage all nightlife, press and promotions. Over the last nine years, I have owned various venues throughout NYC including Porky's, The Eldridge and Red Velvet.
NCB: Is the super bowl a big night for you? Did you sell out for the game?
Bernard: We were sold out of tables over three weeks ago, but we have been offering a $120 open bar option since then, which includes tip and tax and the reservation that we sell until the Saturday before the game. Even though everybody in the house has (or should) have a reservation, people still show up expecting to get in. It's always hectic game day.
NCB: Is the Super Bowl the New Years Eve of sports bars?
Bernard: You could say that. Everyone wants to watch the Super Bowl or be out for the Super Bowl - not just sports fans. Our Sunday Funday party has developed to be the premier spot to catch the games and eat great food each Sunday. We throw a fun Super Bowl event whether you watch the game or not - from the music entertainment to the NOLA-themed party we put in place with stilt walkers handing out festive New Orleans beads.
NCB: Bounce is a hybrid of a sports bar and a nightclub. What are the similarities and differences that Bounce has between both?
Bernard: Bounce Sporting Club is the perfect mix between a sports bar and a club. It's a sports lounge-meets-nightlife, catering to sports fans, non-sports fans and a clientele looking for a gourmet food menu, a signature cocktail menu, craft beer selection and a rotation of VIP DJ's. Similarities between Bounce and a club are that we offer the same type of DJ's and bottle service. Similarities we have with a sports bar are that it's just as comfortable and welcoming. We wanted to create that perfect balance - Bounce Sporting Club.
NCB: Since, football season over how do you bring people in?
Bernard: My partners Benny and Yosi have operated and owned the Bounce Brand (our Uptown location 73rd/2nd Ave) for over nine years and they ensure that every customer receives a great experience at our establishments. Our clientele isn't solely sports fans; they range from bankers, socialites, athletes and our neighborhood regulars. We like to make every customer feel like they our top customer and that's what keeps them coming back. We also get involved with other popular pop culture events such as Tribecca Film Festival, Fashion Week and viewing parties for the Awards Season. There's a lot to do with our space and the venue is perfect for transforming into any special event or occasion.
NCB: How important is food to your brand?
Bernard: Very. You can say our food at Bounce isn’t your “Typical Bar Food.” We pride ourselves in having the freshest ingredients – even our juices are locally grown and squeezed daily. We put a gourmet twist to the American classics and our restaurant is now open for brunch, lunch and dinner. We just launched a new lunch menu that includes wraps, salads, sandwiches and more. We also have 30 HDTV's surrounding the space showing news shows, as well as high speed WIFI so our customers can work while during their lunch break if they need to. Bounce is meant to me your around-the-clock destination for any taste, style and budget.
NCB: Is it about the game or the gathering of like-minded souls?
Bernard: It's about bringing people together and having a great time. Bounce Sporting Club caters to people who like to eat, drink and have a good time. Whether it’s professional athletes, sports execs, sports fans, non-sports fans, celebrities and New York visitors and locals alike, Bounce Sporting Club is a New York hotspot.
NCB: How heated can it get inside during a game? Does security and management have to keep a very watchful eye?
Bernard: Just like any other nightspot in Manhattan, our security always keeps a close eye. Of course bigger events such as the Super Bowl require more precaution, but in general – at any event at Bounce Sporting Club, we tend to keep a careful eye out just in case.
NCB: Tell me about the woman friendly-ness of Bounce.
Bernard: It's a high energy nightlife destination that's not boring for anyone even if you’re not into the sports game. We want females to enjoy themselves. Sometimes sitting for hours at a sporting event is not ideal for women but our music program keep all of our guests entertained. Have to give my boys a shout out here -- Adam Alpert, Jonny Lennon & Arie Deutsch. Our DJs are primarily from 4AM. In addition to the great crowd and atmosphere, the food, drinks and music just give women more reasons to love Bounce Sporting Club.
Nightclub & Bar (NCB): You worked in traditional NYC club environments as a promoter and then as an owner. You moved to sports bars and are now co-owner of Snap. Why the transition and what have you learned?
Mathew Isaacs: SNAP is not as much as a transition as an expansion and an experiment. I'm still involved in nightlife with STASH (which just celebrated its first anniversary) and CV was still going strong when we opened SNAP. I believe SNAP was a good opportunity to expand from the private events and the 11pm - 4am nightlife business that I was accustomed to, into a full F&B operation with brunch, lunch, happy hour, dinner, nightlife, and of course, sporting events. I've learned that restaurants are more difficult to operate than nightclubs but it's been a great experience nonetheless and I'm glad I did it. So many kinks have been worked out throughout the years and we are still tinkering with things all time.
NCB: How do fill your room when football is over?
Isaacs: Football is probably the most popular sport at SNAP but it isn't the only one. After the season ends we focus on Basketball and Hockey. We have a great local following that comes to SNAP for Knicks, Nets and Rangers games. March is one our best months with the NCAA Tournament/March Madness and May and June are marked with NBA + NHL playoffs. Saturdays and Sundays become a brunch scene with great specials on food and drinks
NCB: Tell me about game day. How did you market it and what do you do to maximize revenues?
Isaacs: This is the third Super Bowl we've shown at SNAP. It's a great opportunity to cap off the season with all of our regulars. The majority of the tables were claimed in the beginning of the post season. Because we are extremely busy during the game we design open bar and food packages to alleviate stress on our kitchen and wait staff. People know what they are getting before they arrive -- i.e. buckets and pitcher of beer, bottles of whiskey, our meaty wings and famous sliders, etc.
NCB: Most of the selling and planning was done prior to the game. In the few years you have been open what have you learned about marketing the big event?
Isaacs: I find that marketing big sporting events at SNAP is very similar to the way I used to market weekly and special nightclub events with The bloc Group. The most powerful tool is word of mouth and being known for good value, service and always providing a fun experience. While that work is done ahead of time, my work during the event involves spending time with our guests and enjoying the experience with them. It's not a difficult job on days like today!
NCB: Besides the Super Bowl what are the big sports pay days for you?
Isaacs: The Super Bowl is a big day for SNAP and I imagine most other sports bars as well. However, it is not our biggest day. Post Season NFL game days are probably a little bit bigger, especially if a local team is in it. Fight nights, NBA playoffs and March Madness rival the Super Bowl for us as well. The reason for that I believe is just about every bar, restaurant and apartment plans some type of party for the Super Bowl. So, while watching it at place like SNAP is a great option there are several other non-sports bar settings that are popular as well. Regardless of where you choose to watch, make sure you are with good company, lots of food and drink, and I'm sure you'll have great time.