Lexington bars and restaurants put on their game faces to accommodate cheering Cats fans

Lexington bars and restaurants put on their game faces to accommodate cheering crowds

ssloan@herald-leader.comMarch 8, 2012 

The Wildcats will be on the road throughout the SEC and NCAA tournaments, but some bars around town make every game a home game for Kentucky fans.

Shamrock Bar & Grille on Patchen Drive typically plays My Old Kentucky Home before games, and it plays the Wildcats' fight song.

"Throughout the game, we're randomly having customers do Cats cheers," owner C.O. Trump said. "Besides that, we always come up with play lists that will get them fired up."

It's the same at Trump's The Cellar Bar & Grille in Lansdowne.

"Everybody gets up and starts clapping," he said of the reaction during the most energetic songs. "But everybody gets quiet for My Old Kentucky Home.

"We've even got songs afterward that signify victory, like Another One Bites the Dust."

At O'Neills Traditional Irish Pub on Richmond Road near Idle Hour, there are plenty of sounds at the bar other than the game's commentary.

"We play the fight song before the game and at halftime," said bartender Shelby Riley. The bar gets "pretty packed" with fans munching on wings or downing beer, she said.

Packed doesn't begin to describe the scene during last year's NCAA tournament at Village Host Pizza & Grill on Old Vine Street.

For last year's Final Four game, the restaurant seated 190 people but turned away 300.

"This year, we're making plans to utilize our patio by bringing in a big tent," said Evan Trommer, one of the restaurant's owners.

During last year's memorable run, Village Host played clips from a DVD of the Wildcats' greatest playoff games.

"That gets them amped up," Trommer said.

And the crowds responded with more than just the regular whooping and hollering.

"One of the things people get going in here are the UK cheers," he said. "They were doing that last year.

"The bar would start on one side and then the dining side would come back with another cheer."

The scoreboard won't be the only item lighting up at Village Host.

To add to the atmosphere, Trommer said, he has bought a bunch of blue cocktail stirrers that light up to show "UK."

"We'll roll them out big time coming up here soon," he said. "We've been doing them some before. We also got new uniforms that have 'Go Cats' on the sleeve."

At longtime campus bar Two Keys Tavern, college students make sure the place gets rowdy for victories.

"The minute we win and there's a thousand people here, the bar goes absolutely crazy," bar manager Seth Wiseman said. "The bartender or somebody working or somebody in the crowd will get on the bar and start chanting C-A-T-S.

"With a thousand people chanting it back at you, it gives you goosebumps."

Other establishments have their own traditions. The Crossroad on Southland is near train tracks, so the staff blows a train horn during big moments in games.

The Tin Roof at South Limestone and Maxwell Street has a UK logo at the door, and people touch it as they come in to watch the game.

Other bars just try to hang with the crowds. Among those is Bigg Blue Martini, across the street from Rupp Arena, inside the Hilton Lexington/Downtown.

"We try to survive," said Michael Shaver, assistant restaurant manager.

It sometimes has live entertainment and tailgate parties with giveaways, but the goal is to make it through the event.

"It gets crazy in here," Shaver said.

If you want to be part of the craziness during the tournament, the universal advice is to arrive early, wherever you decide to watch the Cats play.

"Every game, you have to get here earlier and earlier," said Trump of Shamrock and The Cellar. "Come tournament time, you have to get in when we open the doors, or if it's a late game, a couple of hours before the game."

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz.

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