By Tristan Tucker
Chicago’s Whiskey Girl Tavern on North Clark Street is one of the only bars in the country where you can regularly catch women’s sports on the big screens along with a drink with friends.
Owners Heather and Christina Roberts aim to make the space inclusive for everyone and try to meet everyone’s sports tastes. The couple opened the tavern in July 2022.
“For us, Christina and I were both athletes and we both love sports, all kind of sports, and I think that it’s not so much that our focus is playing women’s sports, but it’s in having an environment that is just a great place to watch sports in general,” Heather said. “On top of that, we do want to focus on playing women’s sports where we can because I think there’s a need for that.”
Both emphasized the fact they don’t advertise themselves as a women-owned bar. The couple brands the tavern as “a bar for the rest of us,” as their favorite Yelp quote puts it.
Though located in a casual setting, the tavern’s space is huge — decked out with a massive backroom that features several pool tables, televisions and couches. According to Christina, the couple has plans for expansion, aiming to add another bar in the back room and an outdoor space.
“Particularly on the women’s sports side, we really want to have partnerships with some of the professional teams,” Heather said. “In particular, the (Chicago) Sky, the (Chicago) Red Stars, even the college teams — we’re good friends with (Northwestern softball coach Kate Drohan).”
According to Heather, these partnerships would involve teams and players coming to watch parties for other local teams.
The spacious backroom and front bar already allow for the tavern to host watch parties. For NFL Super Wild Card Weekend last month, the tavern hosted a watch party for the matchup between the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills, the latter of which the couple are fans.
According to Heather, one of the fondest watch-party memories she has in the tavern’s young history is of 2022’s playoff matchup between the Sky and the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA. She said it was exciting to see a fanbase that normally doesn’t have a huge platform get together and watch a series that came down to the wire.
As with starting any business, the couple had to clear numerous hurdles in getting off the ground. Outside of regular issues faced by bars, the tavern has run into a common problem consumers have with accessing women’s sports: the ability to stream games without running into blackouts.
“Unfortunately the biggest challenge is that most of these women’s sports leagues are making broadcast deals with streaming companies, and those are not available to commercial venues,” Heather said. “We have every package you can buy, but those are not available and you are not allowed as a commercial business to play that. If we hosted watch parties and things, they could send us a cease-and-desist letter.”
The community provides a solid foundation and support system for the owners.
“The people are amazing, this neighborhood is really great and this is a safe place for everyone,” said Monica Howe, a staff member at the tavern. “It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, trans, whatever you are, everyone is really welcoming. … I really like that atmosphere.”
Whiskey Girl Tavern is open 5-11 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Fridays, noon-1 a.m. Saturdays, noon-9 p.m. Sundays and is closed Tuesdays. The bar is located at 6318 N. Clark St. You can follow the tavern on Instagram at the handle @whiskeygirltavern. The couple encourages fans to show up and show out.
“The biggest thing is if you want places like (this), just support it,” Heather said. “If you want places to show content, you’ve got to show up and support them and be there to watch it.”
Tristan Tucker is a Sports Media graduate student at Medill. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.