1 Syracuse alumni bar has benefited from SU’s football success

first_imgNEW YORK — Kenny Bowen waited for the clock to hit 11 a.m. As the seconds neared before the doors opened, Bowen peeked his head out of the East End Bar and Grill’s window and saw something he wasn’t accustomed to in November — a line wrapped around the building.Bowen, in shock, smiled at the surprising amount of people who’d come out to the Syracuse University alumni bar on 87th St. and 1st Ave. in New York City before then-No. 12 Syracuse’s 2:30 p.m. matchup with No. 3 Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium.For Bowen and his SU alumni bar, having a buildup around a football pregame used to be a rarity But on Saturday, the hype was there.“Your money-makers, your crowds were going to come for basketball,” Bowen said. “You weren’t expecting the same crowds for football, but times change, teams change. It’s different now.”In its 11-year existence, The East End Bar & Grill never maintained a similar amount of success during football season that it did for basketball. Its crowds were slim in the fall, and Bowen waited until basketball rolled around. But as the Orange gained national acclaim this season, peaking at No. 12 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, the bar’s demand as a football gameday destination has risen. Its Saturday crowds of 30 to 40 people in prior years have transformed to hundreds, and its audience has transformed from a few old-timers to more young people.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBefore Bowen committed to opening East End, he was working six blocks south at the Mad River Bar & Grille, primarily known for its Wisconsin sporting event parties. Although he’s not an SU alumnus, Bowen grew up a Syracuse fan because of his mom who graduated from the school. He thought if he could bring in enough of an SU crowd, he could create his own alumni bar instead of work for one. So he did.“We’d just always have SU games on, that’s how it started,” Bowen said. “We just built a crowd around that.”Bowen planned around March, knowing most of his “crazy nights” would come from Orange NCAA Tournament games. But in the “offseason,” he didn’t have to cap the number of people coming into his bar.There weren’t any alumni texting his phone asking how early they should line up outside as they did in basketball season. “Having maybe 50 people was normal, and that’s kinda generous,” he said. And during Syracuse’s five-game losing streak to end its 2017 campaign, Bowen felt his customers diminish as the Orange’s play fell off.“We’ve only been a basketball-heavy bar,” Bowen said. “During the bar’s time, Syracuse football hasn’t been where it is now.”Like last season, SU’s play reflected Bowen’s early crowds this year. The Orange’s opening game against Western Michigan didn’t yield a large number of people, but when Syracuse opened 4-0 for the first time since 1991, people started to show up. The bar saw a 400 percent increase in revenue when SU faced No. 2 Clemson compared to its 2015 matchup against the Tigers when it was 3-6, Bowen said.And as the Orange jumped into the national rankings, Bowen started to plan around Nov. 17 — a matchup of Top 15 opponents only a subway ride away from East End.KJ Edelman | Asst. Copy EditorBy noon, more than two hours before the game, the bar filled up as alumni slithered through the crowds of people sporting their team’s colors. Huddled around three bar stools, Joseph Tyburski and Mark McLoughlin, SU alums who graduated in 1971 and 1973, respectively, weren’t used to alumni showing up to bars.“Did I expect them be quite this good?” Tyburski said. He paused, and cracked a smile, “Yeah, I called it. But if they were 2-6, we’d still be here. I don’t know if all the others would, though.”McLoughlin cut him off, claiming SU should be undefeated and not a two-loss team. The two flew out from their California homes for the game, something they admitted they planned in advance, not just because the team is good.“(Syracuse is) good this year,” McLoughlin said. “That’s the added bonus.”On the other side of the bar, Bert Aufsesser and Ty Adams were similarly going through old SU’s football perils. Adams, a native of Syracuse in his mid-20s, contemplated how good the Orange really were, ultimately coming to the conclusion that he’s never been more excited about a team in his lifetime.Aufsesser, decked in his hand-made Orange pants and a custom painted Syracuse jean jacket, tried to rebuff Adams’ statement. The former president of the Syracuse Alumni Club of Southern California remembers only a couple of dozen people showing up for football games, sometimes starting as early as 9 a.m. on the West Coast.“You know, historically, there’s always this argument that we’re a basketball school,” Aufsesser said, looking at Adams. “But if you think about we’re a football school. The kids who are young only see basketball, but the ones who have been around know about our football history.”The hype around Saturday’s game was new to him, too. Pam Mulligan, SU’s executive director of alumni engagement, couldn’t believe it either. The 1989 SU grad had spent the week coordinating events for the Orange’s games at Madison Square Garden, expecting them to be the “big ticket events.” She was wrong.“Football this week has drawn more, which is very unusual,” Mulligan said. “It’s not what we’re accustomed to, especially as Syracuse people.”Behind the bar, Bowen took drink orders and engulfed himself in conversation with a couple of his regulars. With a brief free moment around 12:30 p.m., Bowen looked around, nodded his head and smirked toward a coworker, pointing toward the nearly 150 people in the bar.Eventually, Bowen left East End to attend the SU-UND game with his standing-room-only seats because he tries to “get away with going to every local game.” His staff would eventually take over, but for now, this was his bar. And for the first time in a while, it was packed during football season. Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentscenter_img Published on November 22, 2018 at 10:29 am Contact KJ: [email protected] | @KJEdelmanlast_img

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