Ultimate Football: The Rise of the Swanky Sports Bar

Recently there has been a change in the way sports bars are run. The old model of sports bar was essentially a man-cave with a liquor license. Neon beer signs and frat boys and old farts screaming at the TV. A burly bartender who maybe took a little book served up commonplace swill and defrosted burgers. There are still plenty of those joints to watch the game, but the new model of sports bar separates the men from the metrosexuals.

The new sports bar embraces women and is run more like a regular restaurant/club. The food is well thought out and good…and pricey. The drinks are made by mixologists or hot bartenders. The prices keep some serving as a sort of door policy against the old guard coming in wearing their team’s smelly jerseys. On a big game day reservations are a must.

The busy season of sports is upon us. Pro and college football bring all the boys to the bars, and these days, the girls too. Monday Night Football packs them in and nowadays, with good food, speciality drinks and bottle service, the steady revenue streams have made this a bigger business. I feel like saying "Duh, why didn’t we think of this before?"

One of the most successful of these new sports bars is Bounce Sporting Club, with two location: one in the Flatiron District and another on the Upper East Side. As their website proudly announces, it is "reinventing the NYC sports bar."

The hospitality business evolves and once one guy or gal shows us the way, the bandwagon gets very big. Tonight, Bounce will celebrate two years of booming business. I caught up with proprietor Cole Bernard, who used to own, operate and promote regular clubs around town, and asked him a few question about Bounce and the new world order for sports bars.

How would you describe Bounce Sporting Club?

It’s a hybrid concept that caters to all different types of customers, ranging from corporate to the young general market crowd.

How dependent is the biz on actual events? Do pro and college football make for a busier season?

For most businesses in the hospitality, food and beverage world, the fall season is definitely one of the busiest times of year. Everyone is excited to have football back and it makes for a great atmosphere where customers come to watch the games and have a good time. Football season is definitely one of the busiest seasons at Bounce followed by March Madness for NCAA Basketball.

What’s different this year from last year at Bounce?

In year two, you can expect a lot of new elements that you didn’t see in year one, ranging from an updated roster of DJ’s to special performances to unique presentations. We will also be updating the menu and adding some new and different items. For example, on Sundays this season, our DJ lineup is ready to kick off. The season features some phenomenal talent, including MOS, Reach, Ross One, Mick Boogie, Sinatra and Dalton. I like to describe it as the "ultimate way to watch football."

Do you miss the "regular" club life?

Even though it’s a different environment, I still get a lot of that same energy from Bounce. Since we cater to such a wide variety of clientele, you will see many table clients that you would see at the most popular nightclubs at Bounce on a Saturday or Sunday for one of our day parties. We are definitely different from most sports bars. From the minute customers enter the venue, to the minute they leave, we want them to feel comfortable and excited about joining us no matter what day of the week or time of day.

image: Bounce Sporting Club

NYC’s Best Bars For Watching March Madness

For sports fans, March is arguably the best month on the calendar. Besides baseball’s spring training and NBA and NHL teams’ push for the playoffs, the college basketball season culminates with a massive 68-team tournament beginning March 19th. It’s pretty much all the excitement of a full season compressed into three weeks, providing a sobering reminder that all those games you sat through the previous four months were virtually meaningless.

Seasoned fans know that getting the full March Madness experience involves two key elements: betting on the games and drinking. The two are closely related. The NCAA tournament comprises dozens of games, the outcomes of which can turn in a few tenths of a second. If you have money on the line, watching your team’s fortunes change that quickly will require something stiff to calm you down. And as the tournament progresses, inevitably you will find yourself knocked out of the running in your office pool when Norfolk State improbably upsets Kansas. That makes it even more crucial to find the right bar in which to lament your lost entry fee, cheer on your alma mater, and endure the rest of the marathon-like event with fellow fans.

There’s no shortage of venues showing the games, but many involve navigating through crowds of drunken alums and lists of watered-down beers that smell like an old pair of Chuck Taylors. Fortunately some hoops-friendly bars have plenty to offer even for those who don’t care to stay glued to the flat screens – like inventive pub fare, unusual cocktails, and a soundtrack that goes beyond Jock Jams Volume IV. Here are enough to sustain you to the Final Four. 

For Overall Atmosphere

Snap adds some sporting flair to an otherwise forgettable stretch of West 14th Street. With wallpaper depicting bare-knuckle boxers and mustachioed baseball players, the vibe harks back to a time long before the NCAA tournament’s birth. For those who prefer modern touches (or who are just too lazy to look up at the TV screens), Snap’s bar has a 20-foot-long score ticker built into it.

A welcome oasis in the Upper East Side’s bar scene, Bounce Sporting Club offers a lounge atmosphere, while managing to remain all about the basketball. Among other creative concoctions on the extensive cocktail list is the Hot Streak, a riff on a margarita featuring tequila infused with jalapeno.

Billing itself as an “upscale sports restaurant and lounge,” The Royal is a recent addition to Union Square. The idea is to dial up the sophistication beyond what you’d expect in other sports bars or even other kinds of bars in the neighborhood: Along with its 45 TVs, it brings a DJ, bottle service and even a surprisingly wide selection of gluten-free menu items.

For Food and Drinks

Mulholland’s has four other kinds of wings, but there’s no sense in trekking over to the Williamburg spot if you’re not going to try the Scorching Death variety. If you have even greater disdain for your arteries than your mouth and throat, the menu also has chili cheese nachos served on waffle fries and fried pickles. Then cool off with one of 22 tap beers on the patio, which thankfully has a TV.

In the shadow of City Hall stands Manhattan Proper, where you can dine on white truffle lobster ravioli while doing your best to suffer University of Florida fans. Fans of the classics can stick to the Proper Wings and Proper Burger. Just make sure to wash them down with a seasonal cocktail like the Revolver, which somehow seamlessly matches Bulleit rye and Kahlua.

With 40 flat screens, The Ainsworth is the best bet to catch the games in Chelsea. The sports theme makes the bar something of an anomaly in the neighborhood, but with six different kinds of sliders (including lobster and barbecue pulled pork), the menu will stand up well when the Elite 8 rolls around and you can’t take one more buffalo wing.

For Activities Other Than Watching Basketball

Unfortunately there are short periods during the tournament when no games are going on or—gasp—the ones that are being played just aren’t that exciting. If you’re worried about down time, put your name on the list for The Whiskey Brooklyn’s shuffleboard table, which promises stiffer competition than most 1-vs-16 seed matchups. Skee-Ball and video cornhole are also available while you wait for your turn.

Angry Wade’s stays just on the right side of being a traditional ballcap-and-greek letter-filled sports bar. While the Cobble Hill staple features four TVs behind the bar—which runs nearly the entire length of the room—many patrons come to play pool or darts, munch on free popcorn, or hold forth on the provocative, ever-changing artwork on the walls.

If you’re able to round up a critical mass of fellow alumni, Firefly has a party room with a private bar to keep you away from fans of those hateful other 67 teams. The bar also has a DJ spinning three nights a week.

[Check out the BlackBook New York Guide; Discover the latest parties & openings with the weekly BlackBook Happenings email.]

The Top Alcoholic & Creative St. Patrick’s Day Desserts

Whether you’re heading to a St. Patrick’s Day potluck or intending to fawn tipsily over a plate of sweetness at the end of your pub crawl, the mission is clear: you need something sweet and St. Patrick’s-themed. Thankfully, some of NYC’s best dessert spots are offering special treats that lovingly combine not just the green theme, but also alcohol. And here they are:

The Beer Cream Puff at Puddin‘: Soda bread-inspired puff with an orange glaze, cherry compote, and filled with pudding soaked in Brooklyn Brewery’s Dry Irish Stout. Info here

The Black & Tan cupcake at Sweet Revenge: Chocolate cake infused with Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, topped with ChocoVine-laden cream cheese frosting. Info here.

The Banana Bread Pudding at Bounce Sporting Club: Topped with butternut squash ice cream and paired with three homemade Jameson shots: banana, eggnog, coquito. Get it Sunday at their Sunday Funday party, info here.

The Irish Chocolate cupcake at Sprinkles: Belgian dark chocolate cake topped with Bailey’s Irish cream cheese frosting. Info here.

The Leprechaun Milkshake at Melt Shop: Green vanilla milkshake topped with four-leaf clover sprinkles. Info here.

The Guinness Chocolate Cupcake at The Windsor: Guinness-infused chocolate cake with Bailey’s buttercream, served in a jar. Info here.

Discover the latest parties & openings with the weekly BlackBook Happenings email, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here

 

Photo: UrbanDaddy

New York’s Wackiest St. Patrick’s Day Dishes & Drinks

Like all holidays, St. Patrick’s Day is a day when we get away with doing things that are deemed unacceptable on ordinary days. Running around in green onesies, handing out Lucky Charms cereal to strangers, and drunkenly yelling the phrase “Luck of the Irish!” to couples mid-makeout is strongly encouraged and instantly Instagrammed. And when it comes to fuel for the ride, the wackiness continues, as food and alcohol finds any excuse to intermingle. Tuna with Jameson soy sauce? Yeah, why not. Bread pudding stuffed with banana Jameson shots? Can’t say no. Here are NYC’s most unusual:

GO Burger: 

  • St. Patty Melt Burger: a 4 oz. burger topped with corned beef, Irish cheddar, mustard, and sauerkraut, available now.
  • Kiss Me I’m Irish Spiked Shake: a creamy shake full of Bailey’s, Jameson, & Murphy’s Stout, blended with a shamrock cookie and whipped cream, available now.

Bounce Sporting Club:

  • Tuna with Jameson Soy Sauce: savory, alcoholic, Sunday only.
  • Banana Bread Pudding with Jameson shots: paired with butternut squash ice cream and eggnog & banana shots, Sunday only.

BLT Steak: 

  • The Jameson Goodbye Cocktail: drink infused with Jameson, green tea, lime juice, & mint tea, $18, available this weekend.

The Windsor:

  • Pastrami Spring Rolls: meat, fried, wrapped, perfect, this weekend.
  • Guinness Chocolate Cupcake with Bailey’s Buttercream: as described, served in a jar, available this weekend. 

Discover the latest parties & openings with the weekly BlackBook Happenings email, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Photo: damnthatlooksgood.com

DJ Martial Is Just Getting Warmed Up

Marshall Weinstein, known to club-goers and music aficionados as DJ Martial, is having trouble getting used to the deep freeze New York currently finds itself mired in. When I reach him by phone at his Brooklyn apartment, he’s just returned from a work trip to the Caribbean, a difference of 1,650 miles and five layers of clothing. "I was DJing in St. Maarten in 85 degree weather and here it’s 10 degrees outside," he says with a laugh. "The airplane wouldn’t even go to the gate because it was frozen, they had to bus us in. It was crazy." He won’t be frozen for long, as he’ll soon be on his way to balmy New Orleans for a handful of gigs centered around the upcoming Super Bowl. We caught up with him during his brief layover to find out how he got started, his favorite clubs to perform in, and his secret for de-stressing fast.

Where are you from, and what kind of stuff were you into as a kid that led you to being a DJ?

I went to elementary, middle, and high school outside of Boston. I started DJing in 1993 when my older brother introduced me to underground electronic rave music. I was 13 at the time. When I graduated from high school I moved to New York City. My mom is originally from Long Island and my dad is originally from Coney Island, Brooklyn, and my whole family lived in the New York area, so it was a no-brainer. I went to Hofstra and DJ’d my way through college. I’ve been actively in the New York music scene since 1998 when I came to the city.

So, Yankees or Red Sox?

I’m definitely an all-Boston sports fan. It’s a little upsetting with the Patriots losing recently, however now that I’ve got some gigs at the Super Bowl I can focus on work and not sports.

How did you start DJing in the city?

When I got to New York, I realized that I had access to the best city in the world that had the best music. At Hofstra I was on the radio, and I majored in television video production communications, so music was always a part of my life. Whether it was in the studio working with audio tracks or video, or at the radio station on the air, all I did was music music music. When I got out of college, I was still DJing nights and weekends. With my full-time job – I worked at MTV and in the industry – eventually it steamrolled. I was picking up more and more gigs to the point where I was burning the candle at both ends. I couldn’t be in a television studio at six o’clock in the morning when I got out of a club at four.

So you decided to make a change?

In 2006 I realized that I’ve been DJing for 13 years, but I had a career in television. I said to myself, I’ve always wanted to be a full-time DJ. I had an opportunity to work overseas for three months as a DJ, so I sat down with my boss at the time and explained it to him. He said, you’ve got a lot of passion for this, so go for it. I put in my two weeks, it was December 2006, and since then I’ve been a full-time DJ. I also do a lot of private events, not just in New York but around the nation and internationally, and I book DJs at clubs and events through my company, SET Artist Management.

Is that when the momentum started to build?

Once you do one event it leads to another. Being humble and staying true and smiling and constantly following up with everybody, it leads to an escalation. Since then I’ve never looked back or second-guessed myself on leaving a career that I went to college for.

What kind of clubs were you playing at the time?

When I went overseas I was working in Israel, in various places in Tel Aviv,  Jerusalem, and Haifa. Clubs like Shalvata, Lima Lima, City Hall, Layla Bar.  Then I came back to New York and gigs started to add up, residencies here and there. I’ve worked at clubs like Beauty & Essex, WiP, Double Seven, Top of the Standard, Yotel, Stash, STK Midtown, Gansevoort Park, Bounce Sporting Club on 21st, Haven Rooftop.

How would you describe your musical style, and how do you adjust that for the crowd and event?

I’m a 100% open format DJ. I love all types of music and I’m not afraid to drop anything. It’s not about what you play, it’s about what you follow up with. You can drop a song from the ’70s and people start to get into it. For the next song, whether it’s a huge club banger or a perfect smooth transition, it can make the song before it that much better. My outgoing personality shines through my beats, like a sixth sense. I bleed hip-hop, ’80s, rock, house, and still stay true to the music and dance floor because I keep those classics in the mix. And I have no problem playing the most current, hottest tracks, to do whatever I can to keep the dance floor packed till dawn.

So you believe that the context is important, it’s not about any one individual song, it’s about the whole set and the vibe you’re putting out there?

Yes. It’s not like I’ll play one ’80s song, one ’70s song, one rock song, one hip-hop song. Then it can be a bit ADD. It’s more about the way you blend different genres of music together throughout the night to build that crescendo. You finish the night and people look at their watches and they can’t believe it’s four in morning and the club’s still packed.

What do you have going on with the Super Bowl?

I’m down in New Orleans Thursday through Monday. I’m working at the NFL House, doing parties Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and I’m doing a number of parties for CBS, including pre-game and post-game on Sunday. The two CBS parties I’m involved in, there’s one Friday night at the Contemporary Arts Center, and Saturday I’m doing the party at Generations Hall with a live performance from Trombone Shorty, who is a really talented local guy who does huge live performances with a big band feel.

What else do you have coming up?

I’ll be DJing in the number one college town, Morgantown, West Virginia, at a place called Rock Top. I’ll be in Boston. I do a lot of private events for BlackBerry, since I’m the official Latin American BlackBerry DJ. In the summer I’ll probably have a lot of Hamptons gigs.

What clubs do you like to play in?

I like being close to the crowd. Mid-sized clubs work really well. I love working at Stash on 14th Street. Beauty and Essex is a great place to feel the energy and the vibe, and Double Seven is another spot where you’re right in the mix.

What’s on your iPod?

I have a series of playlists for all the new stuff I need to hear. There’s never enough time in the day to hear all the new songs. But when I’m relaxing, I love old school music. Old classic rock, ’70s, ’80s, things like that.

What do you do to relax and de-stress?

I love going to the Russian and Turkish Baths. Sometimes I just need a good shvitz. And I’m not afraid of the cold pool either.

What advice do you have for aspiring DJs?

Be as musically knowledgeable as possible. Everybody knows that electronic music is huge right now, techno, house, dubstep, but the more versatile you are, the more gigs you can play. If you want to specifically become an electronic music DJ, and that’s your passion, go for it, but if you’re trying to get noticed and get gigs and get experienced, the more versatile you are, the more avenues you have. Stay humble and keep in mind there’s a big line between work and play. Keep a clear mind.

Do you enjoy going out and experiencing DJs and live entertainment? Check out the BlackBook City Guides for all the best spots in New York and around the world. Download the free, GPS-enabled iPhone and Android apps, and sign up for our BlackBook Happenings newsletters for New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. Knowledge is power. 

Industry Insiders: Cole Bernard, Time to Bounce

Cole Bernard is out to change what you think a sports bar should be. As co-owner, along with partners Yosi Benvenisti and Benny Silman, of the new Bounce Sporting Club in New York’s Flatiron district, he refuses to compromise on food and drink, even if his competitors rarely go beyond beer and cheese fries. 

"We’re a high-end sports bar with a high-end menu, so we bring together the best of both worlds," he says. At Bounce, fans can catch every moment of the action on one of the 30 high-def TVs placed throughout the venue. But the excitement isn’t limited to the screens, as chef Sean Olnowich’s menu features upscale dishes such as the au cheval burger, sloppy duck leg confit, and truffle mac and cheese. 

Naturally, there’s a generous selection of draft and bottled beers, but those looking for more sophisticated sips will delight in mixologist Charlotte Voisey’s signature cocktails, homemade sangria, and top shelf spirits. There’s even a DJ who spins records during breaks in the action, just the keep the energy level high. 

"The difference between us and other sports bars is we have great food and beverage, and we incorporate a party atmosphere," says Bernard.