The Sports Bra, Portland’s first women’s sports bar
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Being a sports fan comes with its fair share of struggles. There is angst over a draft pick or a team’s recruiting class, sadness over defeat. But many female sports fans face a hurdle that few male sports fans face: “Can I watch my team play? »
Walk into any sports bar and chances are that if there are 10 televisions, all 10 will be showing men’s sports or featuring shows about men’s sports.
Jenny Nguyen is creating a space that will offer the exact opposite: all women’s sports, all the time.
“This is ‘The sports bra,“,” Nguyen said with a smile as he looked around the space on NE Broadway that will soon become the first sports bar dedicated solely to showcasing women’s sports. “The motto is ‘We support women.’ The goal is to get women’s sports on TV and represent women in the food and beverage industry.
“Statistically, 96% of all sports media on television is male sports,” Nguyen explained. “So that means 4% of everything that’s shown is in women’s sports and yet 40% of the athletes are women. We’re playing there, we’re just not being shown. So the focus of The Sports Bra is to promote that 4%, to inflate it.
For Nguyen, The Sports Bra at 2512 NE Broadway represents the blending of two passions: women’s sports and bringing people together around food.
“I like to say I put the bottle down and picked up a basketball,” Nguyen joked.
Born and raised in Portland, Nguyen played basketball growing up, with playing dreams taking her through college athletics and maybe even beyond, but her freshman year changed everything.
“I blew my knee a week before the start of the season,” Nguyen said. “I was 19 and felt like my whole world was devastated. [Basketball] was my whole life.
“The following year I went to college and discovered cooking. So I started cooking and it was a great way for me to translate all that energy I had towards basketball- ball. I found a passion for cooking after that.
Between cooking and still being a bucket in the intramurals of then and picking up to this day, Nguyen had found his place. She went to culinary school in Portland and started working as a chef at places like Adidas and Lewis and Clark College.
“It really gave me the chops with all the different types of cuisine,” Nguyen said. “We cooked everything under the sun.”
Then 2020 hit, and Nguyen found herself in the same predicament as hundreds of thousands of Americans, with her job shut down and reassessing what she wanted from her career and her life.
“When the pandemic happened and there was a whole lot of upheaval from social justice movements, people started reassessing their priorities and their lives and I went through the same thing.”
That’s when the longtime banter between friends to open a sports bar, dedicated to showcasing women’s sports, turned into an idea that couldn’t be ignored.
“I first thought, ‘OK, we need to open a place that only shows women’s sports so my friends and I have a place to watch it,'” Nguyen said. “It got us talking about the importance of a space like this.”
And so began working for the opening of The Sports Bra.
“The name came quite easily,” Nguyen said. “It makes sense, it’s just changing a few letters. If you put it on a sign most people would drive by and wouldn’t even notice it’s different and that’s kind of the whole point. You want to show the world that it’s those little, tiny changes, that’s all it takes.
The spelling difference is a small thing, with a big impact, just like how Nguyen builds his bar from scratch. Everything from the draft beer to the mixed cocktails and meat served showcases women in their respective industries.
“Owned and operated by women, or women who are behind the scenes,” are the brewers, breeders or suppliers Nguyen seeks to partner with. Breweries like Gateway Brewing, run by a husband and wife team, or Migration Brewing, which has a wife running their small batch. She’s teaming up with Nguyen to create a small batch that will be right at The Sports Bra.
Even the furniture that customers will sit on will be in line with Nguyen’s mission, as the tables will be built by girls from Girls buildinga non-profit organization, whose website says it teaches girls ages 8 to 14 the basics of carpentry, among other skills.
“They’re going to make a few team tables, big, common-style tables, and they’ll build all the outdoor furniture,” Nguyen explained. “It’ll be the first time anything they’ve done will be in a public place, so it’ll be great for them to come with their friends or family and be like, ‘I did this’.”
If there is a women’s match or event on TV, it will be shown on The Sports Bra. Nguyen also works with companies like Just women’s sport to access their digital content to ensure that even though mainstream viewing options are limited for women’s sports, The Sports Bra never runs out of content to view.
“When there are no games, we have worked with several different sources for content. I contacted Just Women’s Sports and asked them to access some of their digital content and immediately they said: “What else?”
Like the bar’s motto, “We Support Women,” support for The Sports Bra caught even Nguyen off guard.
“I like to think of myself as an optimist, as a down-to-earth optimist, but ideas are weird. They live in your brain and I think it’s a great idea, and then I finally told my friends and my friends have thought that was great but we are of the same mind and they are my friends so what are they going to say we always wonder what the reaction from outside is going to be and so when this kind of reaction occurs, it is incredible.
The Sports Bra menu will offer non-alcoholic, gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian menu options and Nguyen wants to create a space where children and families feel comfortable.
“What a difference it would have made to have a place where we felt like we belonged as little girls in sports,” Nguyen said of her own childhood. “Even if there’s only one girl who comes here and sees her on TV and inspires her to dream big of playing sports as an adult, that’s it for me. ”
Nguyen is aiming for an early April date for the grand opening of The Sports Bra.