DOWNTOWN – At 3 p.m. on Monday it seems like the only people on the Downtown streets are World Cup stragglers.
In Santa Monica, with its high concentration of international transplants and tourists, soccer is huge and brings flocks of fans to bars at odd hours for the 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. start times.
A group of tourists, all wearing U.S. national team gear in one form or another, didn’t realize how hard it would be to find a place to watch the match.
Visiting Santa Monica on business they had read that Ye Olde King’s Head is the place to go. They were right. They showed up five minutes before the start of the match and found the pub was full.
Scrolling on their phones in search of a plan B, they don’t know it, but Clint Dempsey is in the process of scoring an incredibly early U.S. goal.
“Let’s just go back to the hotel and watch,” says Thomas Jann who’s visiting from the East Coast.
“That’s lame,” his friend responds.
The news comes through.
“Dempsey scored,” Jann says glumly, staring at his phone.
Expletives all around as they retreat for the hotel.
It’s not just the U.S. games that draw crowds. At the Libertad Soccer Club on Pico Boulevard, fans sit quietly in plastic chairs watching the Mexico national team tie with Brazil, the host country.
Santa Monica has a half-dozen thriving British Pubs that fill during almost any match, particularly ones played by the English or the U.S.
“Both games reached capacity and we had lines outside,” said Rich Moritz, the manager at the Britannia Pub said in an e-mail. “Being a British pub and the only bar on the Westside to be part of the official USA soccer program we expected that these games would be the big ones. Saying that we had incredible support for all the teams. Especially Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. We also had a large group of Iran supporters get together via the Internet.”
Business, he said, has been exceptional and they only expect it to get better as the games become more important.
Staff at Ye Olde King’s Head said business is about the same as it was four years ago, only because, as an established soccer pub, they always do very well during matches. The pub has opened early for the World Cup since at least 2006 and staff said the longer hours are the real benefit as it’s not often that the bar has a full house on a Monday at 3 p.m.
The viewing area in Bar Pintxo, which serves tapas influenced by cuisine from the Basque region of Spain, was packed during the Spain versus Netherlands game on June 12.
Patrons cried out, disappointed, when the Dutch pulled ahead 2 to 1.
The establishment has a clientele of Spanish-natives, people of Spanish decent, and a lot of locals, in general, said supervisor Jamie Boalbey.
“It’s busier than normal,” said Matt Simms, a regular. “Pretty much everyone is here now is here for the game.”