By Jonathan Friedman
June 12, 2014 -- When Brazil and Croatia kick off the 2014 FIFA World Cup on Thursday, soccer fans can tune in on big screens all across Santa Monica at local establishments hoping to cash in on the international sports spectacle.
The planet’s most-watched sporting event will boost the bayside city’s economy, with pubs and restaurants opening early to welcome eager fans and retail stores selling soccer paraphernalia through the finals, which are set for July 13.
Richard Muritz from The Brittania Pub said he expects “a crazy atmosphere” for the 32-nation competition and plans for the bar Downtown to be open for all the games, which will begin as early as 9 a.m. and last well into the late afternoon.
Lisa Powers, manager of Downtown’s other British-themed restaurant/bar, Ye Olde King’s Head, expects the same.
“England and USA are a huge draw for our crowd, but we also get good crowds for the other European teams, too,” said Powers, who added that King’s Head is planning for a special breakfast and lunch menu.
However, Downtown bars aren’t the only ones scoring on soccer madness.
The Cock n’ Bull British Pub on Lincoln Boulevard is a long-establish venue for watching the quadrennial international soccer competition. So much so that it was featured in the national social and entertainment news website Buzzfeed as California’s entry in “The Best Bars to Watch the World Cup in all 50 States.”
“The old school soccer pub has been welcoming soccer fans in Santa Monica for over 23 years,” Matt Kiebus wrote. “If you wake up early enough of the weekends, you’ll be able to find your favorite team on one of their many big screen TVs. If you’re in the area, Cock n’ Bull is a must visit for the World Cup.”
Other bars and pubs that will air the World Cup matches live include O’Brien’s Irish Pub on Wilshire, O’Brien’s Irish Pub and Restaurant on Main Street, Finn McCool’s Irish Pub on Main Street and Sonny McLean’s Irish Pub on Wilshire Boulevard, which bills itself as “Your World Cup HQ.”
At the Hotel Shangri-la at the Ocean in Santa Monica, visitors can watch all the World Cup matches in the hotel’s Garden Courtyard on their 6 by 10-foot wide Jumbotron video display system.
This year’s World Cup games will air at more convenient times than recent tournaments, since all the matches are taking place in Brazil, which is four hours ahead of Santa Monica. This will be the first time the World Cup has taken place in the Western Hemisphere since the United States hosted the event in 1994.
“It’s going to be a lot more convenient for everybody,” Muritz said. “Although when people are fans of the World Cup and soccer in general, you’d be surprised what they will do to catch the games.”
Soccer at the highest level, including league games and international tournaments, usually takes place outside the United States, where the sport’s popularity is unmatched and the world’s best players compete.
So airing games at what some might consider off hours is the norm for the City’s soccer-focused pubs. While the biggest fans will be there, regardless of the hour, even casual fans tend to stop by for a game and breakfast or extended lunch break from work.
“You get a lot more of the casual soccer fans coming out for games in addition to the die-hards,” said AJ Sacher, director of operations at Barney’s Beanery on the Promenade. “Lots of people get into the patriotic spirit and the big-event atmosphere of it all.”
He added that the combination of veteran fans and new-comers creates some interesting conversations at the bar.
“You see less-experienced soccer fans being educated by the more-experienced fans,” he said. “For some people, it’s a once-every-four-years thing. For others, they become soccer fans because of this, and then will be coming back to watch more games after the World Cup is over.”
Sacherr said England and the United States are two of the biggest draws, as are Spain, Mexico and Brazil.
“There’s a ton of pressure on Brazil because it’s the host nation and has a strong soccer tradition, and people will be interested in seeing the games they are playing in,” he said.
As is the case with all sporting events, the fans will buy merchandise. King’s Head will sell World Cup-themed items in its gift shop, while the Adidas store on the Third Street Promenade will carry plenty of soccer-related goods.
“Our World Cup product launches kicked off in November,” said Jennifer Valentine, soccer category manager at Adidas America. “Since then we’ve had a relentless flow of innovative products, extending from cleats to uniforms to accessories.
“Leading up to the World Cup, we will launch our footwear collection, and we will see continued success of our federation uniforms and Brazuca ball [the official match ball of the 2014 FIFA World Cup],” she said.
Lookout reporter Daniel Larios contributed to this report