Milwaukee Pubs Prep For World Cup Mania

Jun 12, 2014

Joe Katz and his siblings own the Highbury bar in Bayview. It's planning for big crowds during the World Cup's four-week run.
Credit Erin Toner

Starting Thursday, soccer fans around the world will be glued to their flat screens and computers as the first match of the 2014 World Cup gets underway in Brazil.

Many will also spend a little, or a lot, of time at their favorite bar to watch the action.

One local bar owner who’s making preparations for the World Cup’s four-week run is Joe Katz of The Highbury in Bay View. He’s been having a busy week with lots of phone calls and beer deliveries. There’s also a tagger out back of the bar spray painting World Cup team names on a white cinder block wall – Brazil, England, Mexico, Spain, Holland, and so on.

Graffiti is filling up empty cinder block walls outside The Highbury pub in Bayview to greet 2014 World Cup fans starting Thursday.
Credit Erin Toner

Inside The Highbury, there’s color everywhere.  Bright tiles covering the floor and stairs – remnants of the building’s former life as a tile store – and paintings by local artists hanging on the walls.

And of course, there’s soccer stuff, mostly things people have donated, like team banners and scarves.

“I have boxes and boxes and boxes at home that I don’t even have hanging up. Like this entire thing with scarves, I’ve taken it down at least once and now we’re on our second row with scarves,” Katz says.

This will be Katz’ third experience with World Cup craziness as a bar owner.

“It’s a party like you’ve never seen before. It’s a lot different than any Packer Party. It’s more nationalistic. It’s more of a team sport, playing for your country versus playing for your individual Nike sponsorship or Gatorade sponsorship,” Katz says.

The Highbury has big plans for soccer fans.

“I have a tent out back, there’s a big, huge parking lot, we got a big tent and projectors and the whole spiel. Food and bands from all the countries and off you go. It’s pretty easy,” he says.

Katz named The Highbury after the stadium in London where the team Arsenal played from 1913 to 2006.

“I’m a soccer fan, and I thought it was a great name, soccer fans would understand it. And I thought it had a cool ring to it for non-soccer players that didn’t know what it was,” Katz says.

Nomad World Pub on Brady Street is another soccer-themed pub in town.

Patrons enjoy summer weather outside the Nomad World Pub on Brady Street. The bar is transforming a parking lot into a huge party patio for World Cup fans.
Credit Erin Toner

Earlier this week, it was relatively low key. But that will change later today when Brazil takes on Croatia in the first match of World Cup, and certainly when the U.S. debuts on Monday.

Nomad has been transforming a parking lot into a brightly colored party patio, but it's come under sharp criticism for the resemblance to a favela or slum. Brazil has been rocked by demonstrations over its massive spending on World Cup and Olympic preparations, while many residents live in abject poverty. The bar's owner, Mike Eitel, has responded by saying the design was in no way meant to be offensive, and he vetted the idea through his Brazilian customers.

Nomad General Manager Keanen Kopplin told us what the patio will offer patrons during soccer matches.

“Full service bar outside, tap beer, six draft lines, bunch of different kinds of bottled beer. Bel Aire Taco’s gonna be here for the whole event, open to close, every single day for the entire thing,” Kopplin says.

There are six flat-screen TVs that’ll be tuned into all the World Cup matches. Nomad is also teaming up with other bars on Brady to put on street festivals during the tournament.

“The attention that the last World Cup got really brought in a whole brand-new fan base into this. The timeframe is better, too. It’s in Brazil so the timeframe is dead in the center of the day. Matches are starting at 11 a.m. and the last one usually starting around 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. So this is the best opportunity to ever host a World Cup right now,” he says.

The last World Cup was in South Africa, so matches started in the wee hours, U.S. time, and were over by mid-afternoon.

“I’ve been coming here for probably 13 years now,” says Patrick Reavey, originally of England. He’s a regular at Nomad.

“It’s just a good atmosphere where you can come and watch a football match and just give somebody from the other team a little ribbing and nobody gets upset and everybody has a good time,” Reavey says.

Reavey plans to be here at the pub for as many World Cup matches as possible.

“I hope my boss isn’t listening to this," he says.