Barstool’s new sports bar in Philadelphia has dozens of TVs and plenty of controversy

Sports bar? How about three?

Barstool Sports, the digital media company founded by controversial Dave Portnoy and backed by Wyomissing-based Penn National Gaming, opened its Philadelphia sports bar on Friday March Madness, adding to a bustling nightlife area in Washington Square West .

It is accessed through a modest entrance at 1213 Sansom St., directly across from the famous Fergie’s Pub and one block from many bars and restaurants, including Finn McCool’s, El Vez, Sampan, Time, Bar, and Barbuzzo.

Barstool Sansom Street — as this location is branded, after the first location that opened in Chicago in January — has three bars, topped with dozens of TV screens, scattered around the sprawling, double-wide property. Operators, based in New York Stanton & Bowery Hospitalityretained the brick walls of the former occupant Brickwall Tavern.

Portnoy, who founded Barstool 18 years ago, is a polarizing influencer known to his cronies as “El Presidente”. He is known for his “One-Bite Pizza” reviews on YouTube as well as his Barstool Fund, which has given more than $40 million to hundreds of small businesses during the pandemic.

Portnoy was accused of sexual misconduct in a Business Insider article last year. in which two women accused him violent sexual behavior, and former and current employees have alleged that he cultivated a work environment marked by racism, sexism and misogyny. Portnoy denied the allegations.

The barstool may look like other oversized sports bars — with two dozen beer taps and, mid-Friday afternoon, the delivery of Tito’s craft vodka on pallets — but Barstool uses it to pull built on its brand as a gaming app. It’s an immersive experience at the confluence of media, sports, and gaming.

These new generation sports bars are not betting parlors and therefore do not require gambling licenses, as a bookmaker would with kiosks in a casino. The bars provide an atmosphere, including food, drink, televisions and advertising, aimed at younger patrons. The Barstool site will promote its popular mobile sports betting app, available in 11 states; the company said in 2020 that it had over 66 million monthly active users.

Bankroll Club, a sports bar currently under construction on the site of the Boyd Theater in Rittenhouse with a Stephen Starr restaurant, is due to open in the fall.

Penn National Gaming, which paid around $163 million in early 2020 for a 36% stake in Barstool, bills itself as North America’s largest regional gaming operator.

Barstool Sansom Street saw a steady flow of customers which had grown to over 100 people by midday, an hour after opening. Philadelphia attorney Jordan Freeman, stopping after a court date, said he liked the layout of the bar, noting that an interior wall had been partially removed to allow for a more open floor plan.

It is open on weekdays from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. and from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends.

The bar’s Instagram account reposted a story from a user @cfd_chuck, who boasted at 7:26 a.m. of being on the front line. Contacted later for his reaction, Chuck Lynam, a dental student from Temple University, said he lived nearby and simply stopped to take a short video before heading to class.

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