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Business booms at Chicago sports bar catering to Mets fans

Racine Plumbing, a bar in Chicago, taken on

Racine Plumbing, a bar in Chicago, taken on Oct. 21, 2015. Credit: Photo courtesy of Racine Plumbing

CHICAGO - Chris Owens grew up in suburban Chicago and is a 1999 alumnus of Notre Dame.

So what the heck is he doing as the proprietor of a Chicago bar that for the past four years has catered to fans of the New York Giants and for the past several weeks to fans of the New York Mets?

It started when a local Giants fan club was shopping for a new bar at which to watch games and enjoy specials on food and beverages. After three rounds of interviews, Racine Plumbing Bar and Grill in the Lincoln Park neighborhood got the nod.

So plenty of transplanted New Yorkers started showing up on Sundays. But New York baseball? Not so much.

"In five years no one had requested to put on a Mets game," Owens said. "We've never seen more than two Mets fans at a time."

But one of the bars' Giants-oriented regulars who also is a Mets fan suggested there might be an appetite for Mets fans to have a place to gather during the playoffs.

"We didn't know what to expect [for the first game]," Owens said. "We were hoping for 20 people and 50 showed up. We were like, 'All right.' It's sort of grown from there."

The bar was packed for the NLCS games in New York, somewhat less so for the games at Wrigley because some fans went to the game in person. Still, for Game 3 Tuesday, "I had every seat full, with a few standing in the back," Owens said.

Doesn't Racine Plumbing get guff from the locals, what with a Giants banner hanging outside the front door and Mets fans inside it?

"Yeah, a little bit," Owens said. "But in Chicago it's a very competitive environment. I'm not doing anything new by being a Giants bar or a New York bar, per se. We do get some backlash, but generally most people will forgive you once a New York team is gone.

"Most rational people will come back. There definitely are a handful that will never come back because of all the New York stuff."

The name of the bar refers to a longtime family plumbing business that closed in the mid-1980s. Owens' mother is a Racine. He said that the Mets still are new to him, but that he has become as much of a Giants fans as a Bears fans after getting to know so many Giants supporters.

Owens said some of the regulars surely would head to Wrigley in hopes of seeing the Mets clinch in Game 4, especially with ticket prices dropping on the resale market because of the Cubs' struggles.

But if the Mets are in the World Series next week . . . "It will be pretty crazy in here," he said.


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