Sports bars, which cater to customers there to eat and take in the latest ball games, don’t necessarily exclude women. However, trying to find an establishment that features women’s sports is a long shot, at best. And would anyone show up to watch only female athletes on TV?
Jenny Nguyen had a vision during the pandemic days of 2020: to create a sports bar that catered to women. Nguyen believed enough in the idea to open The Sports Bra in April 2022, not just as a place for women to hang out and watch sports, but also to bring a new movement to the community in Portland, Oregon.
“I imagined that it would be a place to watch women’s sports and really celebrate and empower women and girls’ athletics,” she told Mise Footwear. “But now I see that it’s highlighted and uplifted girls and women in so many different ways that is just amazing and beautiful to be a part of. I see now that The Bra brings to the community a sense of belonging, representation and a place to feel seen and safe.”
The Sports Bra’s unpretentious menu features made-from-scratch burgers, salads, appetizers, signature cocktails and vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free items. The restaurant hosts happy hour and has a limited late-night (8-10 p.m.) menu.
It also hosts events. Here’s a post on Facebook that highlights a panel The Sports Bra hosted:
According to a years-long study released in 2021 from the University of Southern California and Purdue University, 95% of TV sports media focuses on men’s sports. This meant Nguyen’s idea was extremely niche, but she knew there was an opportunity there to increase the profile of women’s sports and the fanbase.
“How can you be a fan of something that you can’t watch?” she told Glamour, noting that only being able to experience women’s sports through in-person attendance is limiting. She also said that watching on a phone or laptop doesn’t allow you to experience the fan base in a visible way.
Nguyen has also talked about the importance of making The Sports Bra not only for adult fans but also for the younger generations. That’s why children are always welcome to the restaurant and a children’s menu features staples just for them.
“I thought about, if we can even get one kid in here and have them feel like they belong in sports, it’d be worth it,” she told CNBC.
This social media post shows off one of the watch parties the sports bar had during the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in March this year.
And, while The Sports Bra concept may seem like it doesn’t cater to a large audience, the financial scoreboard shows the restaurant is a winner. CNBC reported The Sports Bra brought in $944,000 in revenue in 2022, resulting in a profit for its very first year. For context, it takes most restaurants 2-5 years to become profitable — and 60% of restaurants fail in their first year.
As for the future, Ngyuen told Mise Footwear she hopes The Sports Bra’s success will help to level the playing field when it comes to women’s sports recognition and coverage.
“I want to normalize showing women’s sports on TV. I want every bar, hotel, restaurant to put on women’s games like it was normal, but that also means having access to these games,” she said. “If the media doesn’t show it, how can we play it? And if we can’t play it, how can it grow? It’s an entire cycle that needs to be fixed and really it all starts with investment.”