Gridiron fans bond and cheer at Atlanta sports bars

Gridiron fans bond and cheer at Atlanta sports bars

Yes, it’s football season and that means it’s time to put on your team jersey, gather with friends and cheer on. For some, it’s going to a designated “viewing bar” where fans gather to support their team of choice, whether it’s their school, hometown, or just a random team for no real reason. And, for others, they just want a great bar to enjoy a game and drink a beer.

“I think watching sports is something that, by and large, most of us have a memory of doing as a kid,” says Jeláni Dais, president of the Atlanta Clemson Club. “If you’re not lucky enough to be in Death Valley (Clemson’s stadium), you want to be in the company of other Clemson fans. Nothing is more electrifying than cheering for your team, hearing all the people cheering for your team, the “Players, the institution. You’re just totally invested in what’s happening on that screen.”

Credit: Contributed by Bucket Shop Café

Credit: Contributed by Bucket Shop Café

Most teams – whether college or pro – have a designated bar for like-minded fans to watch the game. The Bucket Shop is home base for Auburn fans (and Carolina Panthers), while Bar {n} is the new headquarters for Clemson (along with Big Game in the Old Fourth Ward). Hudson Grille in Sandy Springs is not only the epicenter for Ohio State football fans but also Oklahoma Sooners and Iowa State Cyclones (and Patriots, Chiefs and Bengals).

Dr. Scofflaw’s Brewing at Chattahoochee Food Works is home to Florida State football fans.

Dr. Scofflaw’s Brewing at Chattahoochee Food Works is home to Florida State football fans.

The Florida State Seminole Club meets at Dr. Scofflaw’s Brewing at the Chattahoochee Food Works where they have a special section and many of the food vendors give discounts. “We decorate our section. It gives everyone the opportunity to have fun and build networks. It’s boring to watch a game at home, especially when you can be with other Seminoles,” says Jeffrey Amilcar, president of the Atlanta Seminole Club.

Three generations of Bucket Shop owners went to Auburn and they have games since 1992. “For us it’s personal,” says owner Brandon Evans. “Even before we could get games on television, we had a radio on. You could walk into the bar and know if they won or lost. It takes you back to those times when you were young.

Credit: Contributed by Smith’s Olde Bar

Credit: Contributed by Smith’s Olde Bar

‘Bama in Atlanta meets Smith’s Olde Bar and Hudson Grille in Midtown. “There are a lot of TVs, and the sound is on so you can hear the announcers,” says Gene Fulmer, president. “We try to do as much as possible to make everyone feel like they’re back in college, even if they’re working in Atlanta.”

But what if you don’t have a bar where everyone knows your team? What makes a great sports bar – especially on game day?

“Generally what makes a good sports bar is a great atmosphere, great food and great prices,” says Heather Hinman, director of sales and events at Hudson Grille.

No matter the sport, at least one of the televisions at Irby’s Tavern will be showing your game.

Courtesy of Irby’s Tavern.

No matter the sport, at least one of the televisions at Irby’s Tavern will be showing your game.

Courtesy of Irby’s Tavern.

Atmosphere with an “everyone welcome” atmosphere is vital.

“Our biggest day is when college football is on. There are so many different groups of people that live in Atlanta that when you come in here, you’re almost certain to find a group of people wearing those team colors,” says Douglas Murphy , owner of Irby’s Tavern in Buckhead.

Unlike the Dawgs, Falcons fans don’t dominate on game days, he says. “Well, partly because the Falcons weren’t that good. But we have 24 TVs, so everybody could come in and we can continue their team’s game. We’ll find a way to make it happen – even if we have to stream it or watching on my laptop.

Although it is a “big Georgia bar”, Doc’s food & Spirits in Smyrna, remains a friendly environment – even when big rivals play, says general manager Anne Newton. “We get a lot of Alabama fans and it’s fun with things going back and forth — especially last year.” The Smyrna Bar has 24 TV sets, plus a large screen on the terrace.

The atmosphere is inclusive in Clemson bars, Dais says. “Our fans are not restless. They are welcoming, fun, excited and if we happen to lose, there will be nothing destructive. You can go in and not know anyone and after watching a game for three hours, you feel that the Person sitting next to you – whose name you may not even know – is a lifelong friend.

Hinman says the space and lots of TVs help. Hudson Grille has multiple locations, three of which have team partnerships. In addition to the Sandy Springs mentioned above, Midtown is the home of the University of North Carolina, Alabama and the Baltimore Ravens; and Kennesaw is the viewing hub for the Pittsburgh Steelers. “Things can get intense, but the heckling is all in good fun. We have people, especially for NFL players, who come every week and get to know each other. There’s a camaraderie.”

Distance helps. For example, Sandy Springs has a 40-seat bar and can accommodate 300 guests with the back seat 500. “It can be segmented into three spaces, so that each team has their own – even if the players are at the same time. ” And speaking of the importance of TVs, the Midtown location has 74 TVs plus three projectors; Sandy Springs has 107 and six projectors.

Typical football viewing food is available from the vendors at Chattahoochee Food Works.

Courtesy of Via Failla.

Typical football viewing food is available from the vendors at Chattahoochee Food Works.

Courtesy of Via Failla.

Any self-respecting sports bar/restaurant should have great food – even if the menu is limited. At Irby’s Tavern, football season means wings and tenders. They had offered brunch but stopped because “during football season, nobody wanted omelets and biscuits. They want comfort food — wings, hamburgers and fries,” Murphy says.

The Bucket Shop General Manager Mike Primus, says it’s all about “food and beer at reasonable prices. We go through 20 cases of wings a weekend, which is a lot. Plus you have to understand that people want to watch a variety of sporting events .

There is no shortage of TVs at Dantanna in Buckhead.

Courtesy of Dantanna.

There is no shortage of TVs at Dantanna in Buckhead.

Courtesy of Dantanna.

Dantanna in Buckhead starts early with happy hour starting at 11 a.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sundays until 2 p.m. There is a food special every weekend the Dawgs play. Hampton + Hudson is converting its outdoor bar into H+H Tailgate City with beer, cocktails and fall treats like caramel apples, donut holes and apple cider.

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