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Lakeview, Wrigleyville, Northalsted

Shorter Games From Major League Baseball Rule Changes Are Helping Wrigleyville Taverns: ‘For Bars, It’s Great’

MLB's new pitch clock has resulted in shorter games, giving fans more time to spend outside the park: "People are getting one less beer in the stadium and one more beer outside, which is fantastic for us."

Cubs fans flock to Murphy's Bleachers after a day game on Wednesday, April 12, 2023.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
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WRIGLEYVILLE — Changes from Major League Baseball have shortened games by an average of 31 minutes this year. But that doesn’t mean fans are going home any earlier.

Instead, bars around Wrigley Field are getting a boost, with fans thirsty to make up for the time — and drinks — lost inside the ballpark.

Representatives at multiple bars and restaurants around Wrigley said fans are using the extra time to pack into local businesses after games. And they’re staying longer than in the past.

“For bars, it’s great,” said Karen Beck, bartender at Stretch Bar & Grill, 3485 N. Clark St. “People get here sooner because the game gets out earlier, and they leave later.”

A slew of new MLB rules are having an impact on the game — including the pitch clock. Pitchers now need to throw a pitch 15 seconds after the clock starts rolling with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. Hitters have to be the batter’s box with eight seconds on the pitch clock.

Gone are the repeated stretches of batters stepping out of the box to adjust their gloves and pitchers walking off the mound to gather their thoughts.

Through nearly the first two weeks of the season, the length of a game is down 31 minutes, the shortest game pace since 1984, according to The Associated Press.

The shorter games mean beer and concession vendors are losing valuable time to sell to fans in the park. Some teams are already adjusting: At least four teams, including the Milwaukee Brewers, are now letting vendors sell beers to the eighth inning. The previous rules cut off sales at the seventh.

It’s still early in the season, but many Wrigleyville bars have noticed more post-game activity, with fans stopping in to continue the game-day experience.

“At this point, it’s been impacting us and the whole neighborhood in a positive manner,” David Strauss, co-owner of Sluggers, 3540 N. Clark St., said of shorter games. “People have an extra hour to explore Wrigleyville, and that’s a great thing.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Pat Odon pours a shot of Jeppson’s Malört at Nisei Lounge during the Chicago Cubs’ home opener as they host the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on April 7, 2022.

The extra crowds at bars is welcome news for local businesses that have in recent years weathered the COVID-19 pandemic, a Cubs rebuild and added competition from other businesses, including a new movie theater, sports book and beer garden.

With so many entertainment options now in Wrigleyville, the margins are even tighter for local establishments, said Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce. Any way to boost business — including shortened games — is a welcomed development, she said.

“The piece of the pie has been sliced thinner,” Martino said. “Any opportunity to have more people in and survive 365 [days a year], that’s a good thing.”

The bump in extra post-game customers has also been noticed at Nisei Lounge, 3439 N. Sheffield Ave.

What’s even more noticeable is the increase in business after games that are completed in two hours or less, said Matt Cain, bartender at Nisei Lounge. The average game so far this year is 2:38.

“Some of the games are much shorter,” Cain said. “People are getting one less beer in the stadium and one more beer outside, which is fantastic for us.

“Even a couple extra hundred bucks for a place like this makes a difference.”

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
Cubs fans flock to Murphy’s Bleachers after a day game on Wednesday, Apr. 12, 2023.

Not all impacts of the shortened games have been overwhelmingly positive, however.

The pre-game crowd has appeared diminished, or doesn’t stay past first-pitch anymore in fear of missing too much of the game, Strauss said. Shortened games could also cause crowds to linger in Wrigleyville and potentially cause issues of nuisance or public safety, he said.

Some bartenders said they expect the Cubs to allow beer sales until later in games. That may again change the calculus for area bars.

“It’s an interesting situation,” Strauss said. “So far, it’s working out.”

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