MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — Early in the first quarter of Monday night’s game between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, the crowd inside this bar on Milwaukee’s east side released such a loud cheer, one might’ve assumed the Packers were playing.
In reality, they were clapping and cheering at the sight of a Bills defender sacking Aaron Rodgers, who was the Packers’ starting quarterback for the previous 15 seasons. Many of the patrons cheered again when they realized Rodgers was hurt.
For a number of those fans, the reason for their ruthlessness was simple: if the Jets lost, Jack’s American Pub would pay their bar tab.
Since announcing the offer two weeks ago, the Brady Street establishment has received a flood of national attention. ESPN even had a camera crew roaming the bar Monday.
Fans packed both the upper and lower levels of the bar, crowding in to get their tabs opened 15 minutes before kickoff. Ryan Cooke, the director of operations for Heard Hospitality, which owns Jack’s, said they knew the idea was marketing gold — and that they’d need to put some rules in place.
“We’ve been in the bar industry a long time,” Cooke said. “We were able to put together just a couple limitations, but still keep it as open as possible.”
Those rules include a requirement that fans open their tabs no later than the opening kick. The offer does not cover food, pitchers, or top-shelf liquor.
For some fans, that meant implementing a strategy.
“I think if the Bills are winning early, we’ll just stay steady,” Nicki Dower, who lives on the east side, said. “But if the Jets have a big lead, I’ll probably tone it down.”
Others declared, win or lose, they came to booze.
“I came here aggressive. I’m gonna start drinking heavy,” downtown resident Michael Steggeman said. “I don’t care what the score is.”
The other key condition is Rodgers must start the game. The rules said nothing about him having to finish the contest, which led to some fans clapping and waving at the screen when Rodgers hobbled off the field after the fourth snap of the game.
Jon Bie said he’d be in positive spirits regardless of the outcome. If the Bills won, he’d love to have a free night at the bar. If the Jets prevailed, he’d still be flying high after the Packers’ blowout win Sunday.
“I think we can work around that, especially after Jordan Love’s performance yesterday,” Bie said. “I’m not too down in the dumps after that.”
Some of those who applauded Rodgers’ exit may well wake up feeling some regret Tuesday, especially if his injury ends up being serious. In the moment on Monday, however, they were overcome by the prospect of a bar paying their tab.
“I’m not necessarily opposed to Rodgers,” Steggeman said. “But tonight, I’m thinking with my wallet instead.”
As the NFL schedule currently stands, the tavern’s offer will stand for another 12 game this season; the “Jets Lose, You Win” promotion is in effect for any Jets game that’s not at the same time as a Packers game.
Of course, that will also depend on Rodgers’ health.