Get away for the gamePublished 3:35pm Tuesday, May 11, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Baseball has always been a big part of Steve Ackerman’s life.
The die-hard Chicago Cubs fan grew up playing the game, manned second base for Western Michigan University, coached the sport at the college level and even was a scout for his beloved Cubbies in the 1990s.
But even though he doesn’t lace up the cleats anymore, Ackerman has kept baseball and the Cubs at the forefront as the manager of the Getaway Grille and Cubbie Bar in Bridgman.
From the moment one pulls into the parking lot, the building screams Cubs. From the replica Wrigley Field sign that welcomes in patrons to the ivy that lines the front of the building, the Cubbie bar is a mecca for local Cubs fans.
The bar, which was opened by Ackerman’s parents in 1983 as the Getaway Saloon, changed its name five years ago not only to reflect Ackerman’s love for the Northsiders but also to set it apart from the competition.
“There’s no question. You’ve got to brand yourself,” Ackerman said. “Every single bar down the road calls themselves a sports bar and grill. You’ve got to brand it and make it fun, instead of just drinking beer and watching TV.”
One way Ackerman makes things fun is through baseball-themed promotions, like raffling off Cubs tickets, offering one dollar hot dogs and drafts, karaoke during the seventh inning stretch or free shots for every Cubs homerun.
“You’ve got 162 game so you’ve got to do something to make it special,” he said. “We try to create the whole baseball atmosphere.”
The interior of the building is packed with hundreds of Cubs signs, jerseys, posters and other memorabilia – all of it collected by Ackerman over the years.
“I have a lot more stuff sitting at home, so we have to cycle it in and out,” he said. “We just don’t have enough room.”
The menu consists of typical bar food with unique Cubs-themed names, like the Holy Cow burger, Ryne Sandberger, SOSAtional, Big Z BLT and Bartman’s Fowl Ball. Throw in eight beers on tap and a variety of bottled beers and wines, and baseball fans are set for the length of the game.
Obviously summer is a popular time at the Cubbie Bar, considering baseball season is in full swing. The bar also sees a huge upswing in business due to summer tourists coming through Bridgman.
But to avoid lulls in the other months and to encourage people outside Bridgman to come, the bar recently opened itself up to nightlife with coyote ugly nights that have been surprisingly successfully for an establishment in a city of 2,000 people.
“We see people from a 15-mile radius,” he said.
Ackerman doesn’t do too much advertising, as the bar is already well established in the community and word has spread to the surrounding area through articles featuring the business in the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune. It has also won several awards from local organizations, including Best Neighborhood Bar and Best Sports Bar.
Getaway Grille and Cubbie Bar is located at 9489 Red Arrow Highway, Bridgman. For more information, call (269) 465-5932 or visit www.getaway cubbiebar.com.