The trailblazer, Nellie’s Sports Bar, opened on U Street in Washington, D.C., in 2007. It was designed specifically to appeal to both hard-core sports fans and clubland loyalists, and the decor features a mix of team pennants and pictures of Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) models. Traffic has increased 30 percent each year, says owner Douglas Warren Schantz. “I’m not even a sports fan; I just have a lot of experience in marketing and advertising,” says Schantz of his previous career at Ogilvy & Mather. “You can’t just open a stereotypical gay bar and expect that one set of people. That group’s already been targeted.”
Schantz intentionally inserted the words “sports bar” in his establishment’s name to aid neighborhood Internet searches—and to attract potentially fearsome heterosexuals. While Nellie’s brims at night with a crowd of strivers who want to drink vodka sodas before heading to Town—a popular gay Washington dance club—it plays host to neighborhood fans during the afternoon. Schantz expects to pay back his sixth, and final, investor by next year.
Have you visited Nellie’s? What’s your take? Is Richmond a ripe market?