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Taverns

Highbury Pub Is For Soccer Lovers

The Bay View bar has become world famous for its crazed fans.

By - Mar 17th, 2014 06:57 am
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The Highbury Pub wasn’t always meant to be the go-to pub for soccer fans to get together and watch games. In fact, owner Joe Katz bought the building with his sister some 10 years ago in hopes of opening a tile store. You can still see a reminder of that in the pub’s nicely tiled floor— a lovely touch but who would guess the original reason for them!

“It was a property investment with my sister,” notes Katz. “But halfway through finishing up the building, she got married and pregnant.” And she was married to a doctor, Katz adds, “so it wasn’t like she needed the place financially.”

But Katz did. So, keeping in mind the place’s Bay View location, with Café Lulu such a success just a ways north, he decided to go out on a limb and apply for a liquor license. “Back then, it wasn’t easy to get approved for a liquor license,” Katz recalls. “I was almost positive they were going to tell me no.” But, it was a goal! He got approved, and the Highbury Pub, 2322 S Kinnickinnic Ave., soon hit the field of Bay View with a bang.

Katz, by the way, also didn’t plan on calling his tile store-turned tavern the Highbury. “I wanted to call it Take 5,” he says, after his favorite jazz song. “But then people would have thought about it as a place to unload and drink… Which, now that I think about it—that would’ve been brilliant.”

Perhaps. But instead Katz came up with the idea of a soccer theme. He grew up playing and loving soccer and chose the bar’s name from the Arsenal Stadium in Highbury, North London. “From 1913 to 2006 it was the home of the Arsenal Football Club,” notes Katz. “It’s something soccer players would understand.”

The Highbury soon became known as the place to see soccer games from all over the world on TV. The bar has been recognized on CNN’s website, and by various soccer clubs.  Those games can be televised at odd hours, which might help explain why the bar’s happy hour is between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. Yes, it starts at 6 a.m., though there’s a second happy hour from 3pm to 7pm later on. “It’s like a value meal at McDonald’s,” says Katz of the morning hours, “why can’t a bar have one, too!?” So third shifters can come after working hard and enjoy some good deals.

A Highbury specialty, and its number one seller, is the bar’s bloodies. It’s a huge bloody mary, so huge it comes with half of a grilled cheese in it. “It’s delicious and they love it!” says Katz. He also offers unusual combinations of beers and something called “magic coffee,” and gives out free soup every morning. “A buddy of mine makes fantastic soup and gives it to me” says Katz, “so I just bring it in and give it to customers for free. So it’s worth your while to come here in the morning.” Katz often has doughnuts or other snacks for everyone as well. When I was there, he brought out a Chex mix-styled snack in bowls and gave every table/section some to enjoy. Highbury also partners with Milwaukee Pizza and you can order some — it’s delicious — if you’re hungry.

Like most taverns, the Highbury has a lot of regulars. Everyone who walked in was on a first-name basis with Katz, joking, laughing, and talking about anything and everything. One of the regulars was showing Katz a photo from a class he is teaching. “I owe everything 100 percent to my customers,” says Katz, “without them, this place wouldn’t be what it is today.”

And it’s not all about the soccer. The Highbury is a great place to unwind, enjoy the deals and free snacks, and make good conversation.

When asked about his favorite memory at the Highbury, one customer had a hard time picking a moment. A long-time regular chimed in and said “2010, World Cup. Hands down.” When Landon Donovan made a goal for the U.S. team, “It was so loud in here, it was awesome!” he added. Katz laughed and added, “Yeah, the neighbors across the street said they could see the sound coming out of this place.” And I believe it—there is a YouTube video of the reactions from inside the Highbury that Katz showed me. Everyone was cheering, “USA! USA! USA!”

“You don’t chant that during a football game,” says Katz, “this is what makes soccer so awesome.”  One soccer fan and online reviewer called the Highbury a “haven for soccer fans.”

Highbury also has a Trivia Night, noted by Kira on yelp.com: “The prize is $25 bar tab for first place, $10 for second place, and a free pitcher for best team name. $25 will go a long way there as we have been sitting on $50 worth of bar tabs for a few weeks now.”

And ladies, if you are looking for a place to mingle and meet men, the odds are in your favor. “We have 95 percent dudes here” notes Katz, “It would be nice if some women came to hang out!” Being one of the only ladies there the day I went, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. All the guys are very nice, and there is always the trivia night!

Highbury has a Facebook page (where it gets 4.3 stars and 733 likes) and a website (thehighbury.com). One yelp.com reviewer notes the bar’s “killer selection of beers” and another notes its calling card: “It’s my favorite spot to watch soccer.”

Visit The Highbury Pub at 2322 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Photos

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