Barstool Sports, the digital media company founded by David Portnoy and backed by Wyomissing-based Penn National Gaming, announced on Instagram Thursday that “ground has been broken” on a Philadelphia sports bar that would open soon.
This Barstool Sports Bar — much like Bankroll Club, a sports bar now under construction on the site of the Boyd Theater in Rittenhouse — will be an immersive experience at the confluence of media, sports, and gambling. Such next-generation sports bars will not be betting parlors and thus do not require gaming licenses, as would a sportsbook with kiosks at a casino. The bars provide an atmosphere, including food, drinks, TVs, and advertising, aimed at younger demographics. The Barstool venue will promote its popular mobile sports-betting app, available in 11 states; the company said in 2020 it has upward of 66 million active monthly users.
Although Penn National chief executive Jay Snowden announced in August that Barstool would open branded sports bars in Philadelphia and Chicago, the location has been kept under wraps. Attempts to reach representatives of Barstool and Penn National about the project have not been successful.
On Thanksgiving Day in an Instagram story, Barstool host Adam Smith pinned the location as “right next to Ladder 15,″ which is at 1528 Sansom St. Based on public documents, The Inquirer has determined that Barstool is taking over the former Brickwall Tavern, at 1213 Sansom St., across from the landmark Fergie’s Pub and down the block from El Vez in Washington Square West.
A Pennsylvania liquor license application is pending in the name of SBH PHL LLC. Chicago city records show a liquor license application in the name of SBH Chi LLC, doing business as Barstool River North, in the former Henry’s Swing Club. “SBH” likely is the New York-based bar operator Stanton & Bowery Hospitality, whose representatives did not return messages.
An opening date for the Barstool Sports Bar is not known.
Penn National Gaming, which paid about $163 million in early 2020 for a 36% stake in Barstool, bills itself as North America’s largest regional gaming operator.
In October 2021, Penn National bought a Toronto-based digital media and sports betting tech company, theScore, for about $2 billion in advance of legalized single-game sports wagering in Canada.
Closer to home, Penn National plans to open a Hollywood Casino near the Morgantown exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, with a Tony Luke’s restaurant, on Dec. 22, 2021.
Portnoy is a polarizing figure. His acolytes, who know him as “El Presidente,” follow his pizza reviews and praise his Barstool Fund, which has given upward of $41.6 million to hundreds of small businesses during the pandemic. Earlier this month, Portnoy was accused of sexual misconduct in an article at Business Insider in which two women accused him of violent sexual behavior, and former and current employees alleged he cultivated a workplace environment of racism, sexism, and misogyny. Portnoy denied the allegations.
This article was edited to add the allegations against Portnoy.