MID-CITY — It’s Wednesday night and most of the bars on Wilshire Boulevard are quiet.
But Sonny McLean’s Irish Pub has had fans lined up outside since 2 p.m. They’ve had to turn people away, but they leave the windows open so that people standing outside can at least be a part of the excitement. By 2 a.m., the place is still packed but management has to send the patrons out so they can close. Some of them, soaked in champagne, chase cars along Wilshire Boulevard.
All this because a team, based 3,000 miles away, won a World Series.
Sonny McLean’s is a Boston bar, arguably the best in the Los Angeles area, and the Red Sox win was one of many examples of the allegiance paying off.
Santa Monica, a city full of people from other places, has quite a few of these transplant bars and pubs.
Sonny McLean’s was opened by Boston natives in the late 1990s and quickly became a haven for New Englanders in Los Angeles. Grant Woods bought the bar four years ago (or in Boston terms: One Stanley Cup and one World Series ago).
Woods, a New Zealander, said there was a learning curve involved in taking over a bar with such passionate fans. He wasn’t a Red Sox fan. Now, he is. He’s so swept up in his fandom that sometimes he roots against his economic interest.
“I was nervous it would go to Game 7,” he said. “From a business point of view, Game 7 would have been fantastic, but taking a risk of losing it all in Game 7… .”
He shook his head, staring off at a poster across from the bar depicting Carlton Fisk waving a home run fair in the 1975 World Series. When the Red Sox did win in Game 6, Woods passed out shots to the maximum capacity crowd while the stereo blasted Boston anthems “Sweet Caroline” and “Dirty Water.”
When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, champagne set the fire alarm off, but no one could hear it over the cheering.
Nathaniel Nocera, who relocated to Santa Monica from Boston, watched the Red Sox win the 2007 World Series in a UCLA dorm room with one other fan.
“All of my friends back home were literally rioting in the streets, but I wasn’t there so you feel alone out here,” he said. “That’s what was so great about being in Sonny’s [Wednesday] night. All of these people were going crazy and they care so much.”
Nocera has been going to Sonny’s for a few years. After the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year, he showed up at the bar to be around people who felt the significance of the bombing in the same way he did.
“You’re angry and you’re confused and you’re not there,” he said. “That’s why I went. Everyone there gets how important Marathon Monday is. Everyone there understands how much it shook Boston.”
Across the street, The Shack, a longtime Philadelphia hangout, is boarded up. The Philly-native owners moved home earlier this year, shuttering the most renowned Eagles bar in the Los Angeles area. The barless fanbase went in search of a home, interviewing several establishment before splitting into two groups, half settling on the Britannia Pub located Downtown. (The other half is rumored to have taken over a Culver City bar.)
The Britannia has been a Penn State bar for more than 10 years and so it made sense to extend the location to all Philly teams this year, said owner Sonia Cain.
Cain is originally from England and she said it’s part of the reason that she understands the fans’ passion.
“I think it might be people being away from home and getting it,” she said. “All the Penn State fans are here, they’re not at home. Yes, they’re in The States but they’re not living where they’re from. Maybe it’s got something to do with that.”
She said that declaring the Britannia an Eagles’ bar has been a good financial decision, even though the team is not playing well.
When Howard Alpert bought Rick’s Tavern on Main a year ago it was a New York sports bar.
“I’ve moved away from that,” he said. “Because it might be great when the team is winning, but what about when the team isn’t playing so well?”
New York fans can still get access to one of the six televisions — just not all of them like before.
That’s fine by Willy O’Sullivan, who owns O’Briens Irish Pub on Wilshire. O’Sullivan, originally from Ireland, decided to turn his pub into a New York Giants bar.
Before the Giants won their last Super Bowl in 2011 he filled to capacity in five minutes.
The joint will be filled with Giants fans every Sunday this year, he said, except on Dec. 8. The G-Men will play the Chargers and so the fans are driving down to San Diego. O’Sullivan is making them breakfast before they leave.