As baseball season comes to a close and fans brace for playoff baseball, businesses, especially pubs, are bracing for a long winter. This year, in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood on the South Side, home of U.S. Cellular Field, the off-season is underway for the White Sox and the bars so dependent on baseball fans.
“I would imagine more people come into the area to watch the game,” said Donna Sukacz of the South Loop Chamber of Commerce. “When the team isn’t playing, those people aren’t coming.”
Schaller’s Pump is one of many pubs and bars that suffers when the baseball season, specifically the Sox, are not in season. The family-run pub located about a mile from U.S. Cellular Field has been around since 1881 and relies heavily on baseball to make business.
Manager Kim Schaller has worked at the pub since the ’70s and is the fourth generation of Schallers to do so. She estimates about 35 percent of the pub’s business is during the baseball season, and now, with baseball season over, it’s all about survival.
“We have our seasonal people and regulars,” Schaller said. “The majority of the people say their goodbyes and ‘see you next year’ after the last game of the season.”
In order to combat this, Schaller’s Pump takes steps to make sure people still know they are around and open for business.
The pub, which is located at 3714 S. Halsted St., takes out ads in local newspapers and also hosts different events, such as quiz night.
“At quiz night, there are groups of people who pay a dollar to get in and we ask 20 questions,” Schaller said. “Whoever answers the most questions gets the money.”
Shinnick’s Pub at 3758 S. Union Ave. experiences the same post-baseball drop-off in revenue. The family-run establishment has been in business since 1938.
Manager Celine Shinnick, a fourth-generation Shinnick, estimates that 40 percent of their business comes during baseball season. However, unlike Schaller’s Pump, Shinnick’s Pub does not do any advertising.
“It’s all about being a neighborhood pub,” Shinnick said. “Most of the people who come here are from the neighborhood and we have people come out for the Bears games.”
Shinnick’s and Schaller’s Pump also rely on family to help get their business through the winter.
“The family aspect helps us out a lot because generations of families come here,” Schaller said. “Now a fifth generation of family is starting to come here and they bring their friends, so family is huge. We have customers whose grandparents came to this pub.”
Shinnick’s also keeps the family spirit alive.
“We are in the third generation of owners now, and now some of the nieces and nephews are the fourth generation, and their friends are coming so it keeps going down the line,” Shinnick said.
A lack of business can also be felt on the North Side. The Full Shilling, which sits just down the street from Wrigley Field at 3724 N. Clark St., echos this trend. An estimated 50 percent of business is made during baseball season, according to manager Anthony Smith.
“We try to keep the specials priced right and sponsor volleyball teams,” Smith said. “We also hope that the Bears win because it seems like we’re busier when they win.”
All three pubs will struggle to survive the winter and when spring training comes around, they’ll be ready — because as America’s game goes, so do they.
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