Just two decades ago, sports bars weren’t very common. This is a community story for locals and sports fans, about one of Richmond’s first sports bars, the changing city landscape around VCU and the retirement of one well-respected business owner.
One Richmond bar scores big and creates a legacy
While the city hosts numerous restaurants and acclaimed cuisine, we also have an often overlooked local sports bar–not a big chain–that’s worthy of a boisterous hurrah.
Mulligans Sport’s Grille first swung open its doors in 1990 to reveal about 20 televisions inside–none of them flat screens–all broadcasting sports games and commentary.
Think about that novelty. The playing field for sports bars used to be fairly empty of any competition.
Harken back to the early 90s, if you can. The daily routine was sans internet, cable television was not a household standard–and it certainly did not supply the multiple sports networks available now. There was an audible welcome from sports fans–to the extent that the dream of three men multiplied into six restaurants.
The first store was so successful that by its second year, the bouncers came to work before the waitstaff. They were needed to control the the crowds who would try to push inside when the waitresses arrived, as to stake early claim to the best seats in the house. The Wednesday concert series brought thousands to Innsbrook, and hundreds would just camp out at Mulligans, many taking in the concert from the comfort of the patio.
John Sweeney, along with the Hurley brothers, Mark and Matt, were experimental business owners. They tried off-the-wall things like “cook your own steak” night, where hot grills stood ready for the sports aficionado to meet tong to meet steak.
The investors ran with their game plan, opening a total of six locations. After the Innsbrook location came Mulligans in Mechanicsville, Sixth Street Market Place, Southside, the Fan and then Farmville.