Detroit Claims the Oldest Sports Bar in America – But Not Everyone Agrees
For decades, Detroit has laid claim to having America's first sports bar with athletes pouring into the popular watering hole for libations as early as 1949. But not everyone is on board with the Motor City's assertion.
Detroit's First Sports Bar
"Meet me at the Lindell" was a popular phrase throughout the 1950s after Lindell AC opened in 1949. The initials AC were for 'Athletic Club,' likely explaining how the bar was credited with being the first sports bar in the United States.
But the Lindell AC wasn't necessarily the sports bar you envision today. Located at Cass and Michigan Avenue in Detroit, the Lindell was a place where sports figures and celebrities would rub elbows with factory workers and neighborhood patrons.
Detroit Is It spoke with Jain Butsicaris-Jackson, the granddaughter of the Lindell's cofounder, Jimmy Butsicairis. She shared her thoughts on the bar's legacy, before TVs and sports memorabilia lined the walls of the sports bars of today.
The Lindell was a place in time. It was a sports bar before sports bars had huge flat screens pointing in every direction," Butsicaris-Jackson said. "Athletes and celebrities could drink beer from the same tap as the regular blue collared patrons that went there."
Last call at the Lindell happened in 2002.
Not Everyone Agrees
The citizens of St. Louis, Missouri would disagree with Michigan's claim that the sports bar was born in the Motor City.
Jimmy Palermo's family ran a pub in the Gateway City starting in 1933. Palermo's establishment was located near the now-defunct Sportsman's Park which was home to the St. Louis Browns and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Like the Lindell, players from both the home teams and the visiting teams flocked to the Palermo.
Jimmy Palermo was a World War II veteran who took over his family's pub in the late 1940s.
Palermo then began filling the walls of the bar with sports memorabilia from his days as a bat boy in St. Louis, along with photos, gloves, caps, and bats that had been used by local players.
As the popularity of TV began to explode, Palermo began installing black and white TV sets around the bar in order to show whatever sports were available at the time. This, unlike the Lindell in Detroit, paved the way for the modern-day sports bar.
Whether it was the Lindell in Detroit or Palermo's in St. Louis, it's safe to say that the sports bar format was conceived in the late 1940s, giving birth to a popular concept that is in play at more than 1,200 bars across the country today.