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The Irish Channel Restaurant and Pub, a dive bar just around the corner from Capital One Arena in Chinatown, ran out of beer on Saturday. Towards the end of the night, bartenders were offering buckets of a random assortment of whatever beer they had left and eventually every bottle of beer in the 200-person capacity restaurant was sold. A Sports Illustrated reporter captured the scene and watched as a bartender poured Miller Lite, the remaining beer on tap, until last call.
And that was just for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. On Thursday, the Capitals, who have a 3-1 series lead over the Vegas Golden Knights, have an opportunity to deliver Washington’s first pro championship title in the big four leagues since 1992 and city officials, fans, and businesses near Capital One Arena are taking steps to gear up for the special occasion.
“We are preparing for all these games like it’s St. Patrick’s Day,” says Irish Channel bar manager Dan Gardner. “All the bartenders are working, all the servers are working, and all the managers are working. It’s all hands on deck. It’s the only way to prepare for it.”
On Wednesday afternoon, fans flooded Ticketmaster’s website for their chance to witness history at a free viewing party inside Capital One Arena. The Washington Mystics game that was originally scheduled for 7 p.m. has been moved up to 4 p.m., with doors scheduled to open at 3 p.m. Fans with tickets will be able to attend both the game and subsequent viewing party. But due to the overwhelming demand, many fans had to watch hopelessly as the site crashed and the tickets were sold out within minutes. According to the Capitals, more than 70,000 people logged in hoping to obtain seats.
The team said Tuesday in a press release that even with a ticket, fans are not guaranteed entry into the arena. There will, however, be video boards positioned at G and 8th streets NW for those who want to watch outdoors.
Additionally, the Navy Memorial, located on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, will replace its previously scheduled outdoor movie screening with a live stream of the Capitals game. Reston Station Plaza in Virginia will also show the game on the big screen. The Bullpen near Nationals Park will host a watch party with a pregame concert starting at 6 p.m., and The Wharf in Southwest D.C. and the National Harbor in Maryland also have space for fans to watch the game.
Adam Martin, a 34-year-old Brookland resident, is debating his options after being shut out from the free tickets. He plans to find tickets on the secondary market and if those are out of his price range (he’s willing to pay up to $25 each), he’ll likely host a watch party at his home with friends as a last resort.
By mid-afternoon Wednesday, tickets for the Game 5 viewing party were on sale on Craigslist for more than $100 each.
“If the tickets actually got to people who are going and want to go, I’m okay with it,” Martin says. “But if these end up on StubHub or SeatGeek, or someplace like that, then I think it’s pretty shitty. It just sucks. This happens with concerts all the time. The Caps are doing an awesome thing by offering Mystics and viewing party tickets for free and the spirit of it is going to be ruined.”
“But if [the Capitals] win, nobody will care,” he quickly adds.
Daniel Litner watched the Capitals’ Game 4 victory from the steps of the National Portrait Gallery—an experience he calls “probably one of the best nights of my life”—and was able to snag two tickets to the viewing party. The 23-year-old George Mason University senior wasn’t even alive the last time a D.C. professional team won a championship.
“It was amazing,” he says. “The energy was just crazy. Everyone got along great. It was a giant party.”
Several of Litner’s friends weren’t able to get tickets, so Litner is still deciding whether or not to attend the viewing party at the arena. He might stay outside to watch on the video boards or head to a nearby bar. If that happens, will he sell his highly coveted tickets?
“No. I don’t want to be that person,” he says. “I just have a very guilty conscience. … I’ll probably ask around if someone needs two more. I’ll play it by ear.”
The steps leading up to the Portrait Gallery have become a popular gathering place for Capitals fans on game days. Even with the added extra security around the exterior sculptures, the museum has embraced the revelry. Red lights shine brightly on the 7th, F, and G Street NW sides of the building and the museum typically sees an uptick of visitors on game nights. Rebecca Kasemeyer, its associate director of education and visitor services, smiles whenever she sees a flock of red jerseys enter the museum.
“We’ve had inaugurations, parades, things that happen around the city, but this is multiple nights over a week or two,” she says. “This is very different. Certainly it’s the first time I’ve experienced this type of ongoing enthusiasm.”
Thursday will be the first time since 1992 that the city is in a position to win a championship and much has changed since then. When the local football team won the Super Bowl in 1992, police officials estimated that from 11 p.m. to midnight, the peak of the celebration, the crowd in the streets grew to 30,000 people.
A spokesperson for Metropolitan Police Department says its special operations division’s planning unit will work closely with the Capitals “to make sure everything will go safely and smoothly,” but did not provide further details.
The existing road closures that were implemented last week will remain in place. Metro announced Wednesday night that it has partnered with Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the Capitals’ parent company, to keep the trains running an hour later than normal on Thursday night. It is the first time Metro has extended hours for an away game.
In the middle of the excitement is Proof, a contemporary small-plates restaurant located across from the National Portrait Gallery on 8th Street NW. The place has gotten so crowded that police officers have been called to create a barricade with bike racks so patrons and servers would have enough space to walk from the entrance of the restaurant to the patio, says assistant general manager Alyssa Bonk.
For Stanley Cup Final game days, the wine-focused restaurant has ordered three times the usual amount of food and up to five times the amount of beer. “Beer has been really popular during games,” Bonk says. And on Thursday, the kitchen will close around 10 p.m. as usual, but last call won’t be until whenever the game ends.
For once, D.C. sports fans aren’t drinking away their sadness. And who would want to stop that?
Top image by Flickr user John M, used under the Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 license.