Soccer fans flock to bars to watch Cup

Business picks up as United States makes great run

6/27/2014
BY STEPHEN GRUBER-MILLER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
‘‍We’re a house divided,’ Joerg Birkelbach, left, said. Mr. Birkelbach, who supports Germany, grimaces as his team’s attempt on goal is thwarted by the United States while his girlfriend Rebecca Bovier of North Toledo and her daughter Malia Huss, 11, cheer on America during Thursday's World Cup match at the Blarney Irish Pub & Grub in Toledo. The United States lost to Germany 1-0.
‘‍We’re a house divided,’ Joerg Birkelbach, left, said. Mr. Birkelbach, who supports Germany, grimaces as his team’s attempt on goal is thwarted by the United States while his girlfriend Rebecca Bovier of North Toledo and her daughter Malia Huss, 11, cheer on America during Thursday's World Cup match at the Blarney Irish Pub & Grub in Toledo. The United States lost to Germany 1-0.

The dozens of people gathered at The Blarney Irish Pub on Monroe Street Thursday at noon to watch the group-deciding United States versus Germany soccer game exemplified a trend — local bars have been experiencing a boost in customers during the World Cup.

“This is way busier than we normally see at lunch on a Thursday,” executive chef Clinton Stanton, 29, said. “I attribute that all to the game.”

Mr. Stanton was constantly in motion, handing out a steady stream of lunch orders. “I need more fries!” he called.

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Patrons at the bar said they liked it for its convenience. It’s a place where they could meet up with friends, grab a quick lunch, and watch the game before returning to work.

“I’m just one of those weird Americans that likes soccer,” Tony Mitchell, 32, said.

“And it’‍s not that weird anymore, actually,” his friend, Adam Houser, 31, added.

Most patrons Thursday were cheering for the United States, but there were a few exceptions.

“My heart beats for Germany,” Joerg Birkelbach, 44, said, which places him at odds with his girlfriend, Rebecca Bovier, 38.

A German native who played soccer there in his youth, Mr. Birkelbach was quick to add that he will also cheer for the Americans. “I have a Dempsey jersey,” he admitted.

From left: University of Toledo students Matt Vielhaber, Mike Hirsch, William Hebble, and Matt Hunter watch the match at Mulvaney’s Bunker Irish Pub and Grub.
From left: University of Toledo students Matt Vielhaber, Mike Hirsch, William Hebble, and Matt Hunter watch the match at Mulvaney’s Bunker Irish Pub and Grub.

A large crowd also gathered at Mulvaney’s Irish Pub & Grub at 4945 Dorr St. where two dozen flat screen TVs showed the game at every angle.

“We are seeing an increase during the day and at night with the World Cup,” bar operator Nino Perna, 43, said, emphasizing the excitement of his customers as a cheer went up behind him.

“I was similarly excited for this game today as I would be for Ohio State-Michigan,” Jack Renz, 46 said.

While some Americans may be skipping out on work to watch the game, companies such as Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an executive outplacement company, argue that the World Cup actually boosts the economy overall.

“Any loss that there would be to companies is probably offset by the extra money people are spending at bars and taverns,” Director of Media Relations James Pedderson said.

Despite America’‍s 1-0 loss to Germany, the team still qualified for the final 16 and will play again Tuesday, which is likely good news for Toledo’s bars.

Contact Stephen Gruber-Miller at: smiller@theblade.com, 419-724-6050, or on Twitter @sgrubermiller.