Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect PlayPennsylvania’s position.
Love or hate Barstool Sports and Dave Portnoy, there’s no denying that they have built an empire in the digital media space and have one of the most recognizable brands in the country.
Now Barstool is entering the food and beverage industry. In January, they opened Barstool River North, a sports bar in Chicago. In mid-March they opened Barstool in Philadelphia.
As a 27-year-old who loves sports and a good time, I am among Barstool’s target audience. I grew up in the Northeast section of Philadelphia, so I feel like I know the entire city quite well. I’m not a “Stoolie.” I don’t have strong feelings of loyalty for the brand like other supporters.
A lot of people have strong opinions about Barstool from the brand to the bar. And like any new place, you don’t know unless you go yourself and find out. Here’s my experience…
Barstool Philadelphia: positive vibes + closed-toed shoes only
I went to Barstool Philadelphia on Friday, April 22 with two of my closest friends. My one friend lives in Colorado now and we were going to spend a couple of hours at Barstool before taking him back to the airport.
Everyone I was with and in front of us got carded by security before entering. My one friend was wearing shorts and sandals. The security guard did not permit him into the bar because of a liability issue if he were to get hurt by glass. Shorts are also not permitted according to the security guards (especially after 9 p.m.). But the guard said would have made an exception had my friend been wearing shoes.
We accepted those rules without much of a fight. I went in myself, and at just after 6 p.m., it was quiet. My friends who were outside the bar noticed that the security guards were allowing women in with sandals and open-toed shoes. My friends asked the security guards if women were immune from getting cuts on their feet from broken glass. They said they were simply there to enforce the rules.
After a while, I came out and the three of us were able to talk to one of the guards on a smoke break. He admitted that women have a much easier time getting in than men, which is the case in most places.
My experience checks out with these two Google reviews on the dress code.
Is Barstool Philadelphia a sports bar or a social bar?
After a quick stop at the airport, I came back with my one friend to check out the vibes at a later hour. It was a beautiful night and much more crowded. It almost felt like summer. The TVs in Barstool showed the Milwaukee-Phillies game and also the NBA playoff, Miami-Atlanta and Milwaukee-Chicago.
We sat at the round tables behind the bar which are first-come, first-serve. A server greeted us and took our order. She asked for a credit card when we finished ordering and kept it until we were ready for the check.
I did not get the sense that Barstool on Sansom was a sports bar. They had several TVs, but never did I get a vibe that people were actually paying attention to the games, even the Phillies. Heck, I was barely watching because I was eating and talking to people.
The area where I sat and ate is the part most considered a “sports bar,” even though it still wasn’t. There were not many people standing up and everyone was either seated at the bar or at the few round tables right behind the bar. There was no sound to the games, which didn’t help if I was actually trying to watch the game. Also, the music was so loud I could barely hear my server.
There was another area of the bar, which is back and to the left, where it’s almost a “standing room only” location. Nobody seemed to care what the Phillies were doing or if the over/under was going to hit in the Miami-Atlanta game.
I did not have a bad experience while I was inside the bar. However, I definitely would not consider Barstool on Sansom a sports bar. It was more of a social bar to me.
I liked that there was an area for a low-key experience if you were to come with a small group of two or three people. The bar is spacious enough to where you can also get the social experience of coming with a larger group of friends and/or meet new people at the mostly standing section.
Barstool’s logo missing
I did not see any Barstool logos in the bar, other than split-flap mechanical sign that changed quotes and messages every few minutes. This was a unique touch with Philly. Some of the displays:
“Dallas Sucks – Philly vs. Everyone.”
“I told him – respectfully – to stop bitching about the calls.” – NBA MVP Joel Embiid
“You want Philly Philly?” – BDN
Part of the reason I do not consider it a true sports bar is because it’s not Barstool Sports on Sansom. It’s just Barstool on Sansom. I consider a sports bar a place where people want to socialize and are also mindful of a game they want to watch. As previously mentioned, there was no sound on any of the TVs – not even the Phillies game. Perhaps it is different during Sixers playoff games. I just felt that if they had no TVs, everyone would still be enjoying themselves. The social experience, including the dress code, far outweighed the emphasis on sports.
I spoke with Patrick Garyantes from Wilmington, Delaware. It was his first time at Barstool Philadelphia and I asked him if he felt the Barstool energy:
“They have enough signage on the inside. Inside the bar, I could tell it was Barstool. I was surprised by the lack of signage and no logo on the outside.”
Garyantes said his first night was a positive experience.
Chelsea Myer, from Northeast Philadelphia, disagreed with him and said she did not feel the Barstool vibe while inside or outside when approaching the bar. She was also alarmed by the man-to-woman ratio in the bar. She may have had a point. By a rough estimate, there were over 60% men in the bar when I was there.
No sign of Barstool sportsbook
For anyone that thinks this is a gambling-focused bar, you were probably at the wrong place. Barstool online sportsbook and casino are both available in Pennsylvania but there was no mention of sports betting or iGaming anywhere in the bar and there were no prompts for me to sign-up.
The secret dance club
From what I was told, the dance club is even harder to get into. It is located downstairs. Absolutely no hats, jerseys, shorts or ripped jeans.
It’s open Friday and Saturday nights starting at around 10 p.m., though there is no real start time. The club gets full when there are around 60 people, and at some point, they have to start turning away guests who want to enter. The employee I spoke with said the security guards also take into account the man-to-woman ratio when admitting guests.
The dance club is not heavily promoted, either. I would not have known one existed without previous knowledge.