PORTLAND, Ore. — There’s a new take on the typical sports bar coming to Northeast Portland and the focus will be on women.
Jenny Nguyen is the owner and founder of The Sports Bra, a women's sports bar set to open at Northeast 25th Avenue and Broadway in April.
“I want people to walk in the door just thinking this is a regular sports bar and feeling super comfortable. And then when they sit down, they realize all the TVs are playing women's sports. They realize the flags on the wall or women's teams, the WNBA or Seattle Storm or the Thorns flag,” said Nguyen.
But the witty name isn’t just a play on words.
Nguyen said her business isn’t just meant to create fandom around women’s sports, but also to support women in general.
“I'm going to try to get all women-made and women-owned breweries on tap. You know, the beef is going to come from Carman Ranch, [run by] a lady rancher out in Wallowa, Oregon,” Nguyen said.
The idea of a sports bar dedicated to women’s sports came to her in 2018 after she and her friends had watched an amazing championship women's basketball game.
"It was Notre Dame against Mississippi State, I think it was, and it ended up being like one of the best games we've ever seen,” she said.
They watched it at a sports bar with the sound off because other games had priority.
“I had made some joke about the only way that we would ever be able to watch the game and like fully immerse ourselves in it, is it we had our own place.”
Fast forward to 2020 in the middle of a pandemic and social justice movements, Nguyen found herself wanting to promote change. She said when her girlfriend brought up the idea, Nguyen said what started as a joke started becoming a reality.
“It was just like […] maybe that is a way to use what I’m really good at to make a difference,” said Nguyen.
Nguyen is a trained chef with 15 years of culinary experience. She said the food will be very similar to what is typically offered at a familiar sports bar, like burgers, wings and salads. But there will be some differences.
“Most everything will be made from scratch. My girlfriend and I try to be gluten free, dairy free and we have friends that are vegan [or] vegetarian,” said Nguyen.
She said menu items will be easily modified to fit dietary needs or there will be something for anyone in those categories.
Nguyen combined her love of food with her love of sports. It’s a love she’s had ever since she was a kid.
“I think having a place that normalizes women in sports would have helped me feel more sense of belonging,” she said.
In The Sports Bra, her loves are combined with values such as inclusion, representation and equity. In addition to sports team flags, LBGTQ and Black Lives Matter flags will also hang in her sports bar.
Now, thanks to financial support from friends and family, Nguyen has been able to make big progress on her goal. The space is hers as is equipment essential to a bar and restaurant. Nguyen said she’s also been approved for a loan and is in the middle of competing the process.
In the meantime, she still needs to buy things like pots and pans, glasses, food and have enough money to pay staff who she hopes to start hiring in March.
Nguyen started a Kickstarter campaign to help. A little over a week after she started the campaign, she's received more than three quarters to her goal of $48,700. She said she’s grateful for all the support.
“It's been really pretty amazing and just seeing the community kind of embrace this idea and the concept and just really come out in droves to show their support, has been awesome,” said Nguyen. “People have been jazzed, which is great.”