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‘You Become a Bit of a Story Keeper’: 1 Month of A Bar of Their Own

There was a line around the block on opening day, and there haven’t been many slow nights since.

Em Cassel

On the latest edition of SNL’s Weekend Update, noted WNBA hater Michael Che took a dig at the growing popularity of women’s college basketball.

“A number of sports bars around the country are promising to only show women’s basketball games during March Madness,” he began. “The bars are known, collectively, as the empty ones.”

On Monday night, during the Elite Eight matchup between Iowa and LSU, it was standing-room only at Minnesota’s first all-women’s sports bar. The wait for two people hoping to snag a stool and catch the game was two and a half hours long.

Che, of course, isn’t the only naysayer—there were slews of them in the comments of various local news social media posts when A Bar of Their Own was first announced, and as the March 1 opening day drew nearer. Owner Jillian Hiscock chuckles, thinking back to some of the uh, more spirited detractors she’s encountered online over the last several months.

“I literally just got off the phone with a group out in New York City that’s trying to do the same thing, and they’re getting a lot of the same comments on their initial posts,” she says. “The thing I told them is the thing I’ve told a lot of people, which is like, ‘You’ve gotta choose where to put your energy.’”

Not a seat in sight during Monday's Elite Eight matchupEm Cassel

This is Hiscock’s first bar-owning experience (she’s worked in restaurants before, but hasn’t managed one for a good decade now), which makes the early success of A Bar of Their Own especially impressive. Their LLC was formed last July, and the bar was announced to the public in September. 

They took over the old Tracy’s Saloon space in Seward on December 1, opening the doors exactly three months later, and well… “It was not slow, I’ll say that,” Hiscock laughs. There was a line around the block on day one, and there haven’t been many slow nights since.

“The learning curve has been very very steep,” she continues, but people have been more than willing to share their knowledge (and take her frantic late-night phone calls about staffing or whatever else). Jenny Nguyen from The Sports Bra in Portland, the nation’s first women’s sports bar, provided a tremendous amount of insight, and now Hiscock is doing the same, speaking with women from Chicago, Atlanta, Kansas City, Long Beach, San Francisco, Denver—“literally all over the place”—who are in the process of opening a women’s sports bar in their cities. 

There’s no sense of competition, Hiscock says, just women collaborating with and supporting and uplifting other women.

And here in Minneapolis, things have been going really well at A Bar of Their Own. A two and a half hour wait is a little outside the norm—blame Caitlin Clark—but it’s not uncommon to have to wait for a table. And one of the coolest things about the experience, to Hiscock and her staff, is the number of women athletes, especially pre-Title IX athletes, who’ve come by to share their stories. 

“You become a little bit of a story keeper with a lot of the information that people want to share,” Hiscock says. “And that’s a huge, huge privilege and honor for people to feel that way around you and around your space … I’m always very clear in those moments: We exist because of the work that those people did to fight for their own experiences.”

The community aspect of the bar has been strong since the day it was announced, and it continues to be crucial to their ongoing success. Hiscock says people have really rallied around her and around the bar—naysayers be damned, people want this place to exist.

Sure, everyone’s got an opinion: about the decision to only have beer from women-owned breweries like St. Paul's Urban Growler on tap (but what about Mich Golden??), about women doing this as first-time bar owners, about the feasibility of a women’s sports bar in general. Hiscock is trusting her gut and doing what she thinks is right, with some help from the women who came before her along the way.

“It’s not a surprise to me that it’s going that well,” she says. “I think the people it is a surprise to are people that either weren't paying attention or were choosing not to pay attention.”

A Bar of Their Own
Address: 2207 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wed.-Sat.; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun.

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