NORTH CENTER — The Dallas Cowboys may be "America's Team," but there's at least one place their fans aren't welcome — Brownstone Tavern & Grill.
The week before the start of the NFL preseason, Chicago's Dallas Cowboys fan club was "kicked to the curb" via email from Brownstone, the North Center bar where the group has gathered to root on Tony Romo & Co. for the last three years, according to Marc Hochmuth, the group's organizer.
Patty Wetli explains why some of the fans feel they were given the Cowboy boot:
Hell hath no fury like Cowboys fans scorned.
"We're going to trash them every chance we get now," said Hochmuth.
Brownstone officials wouldn't go into specifics, but a post on the Dallas Cowboys Fans In Chicago Facebook page — now deleted — detailed the reasons the club said Brownstone gave for the breakup: Expletives ("F--- you, Romo") uttered by fans in the kid-friendly bar, members smuggling their own booze into the bar and aggressive behavior among fans.
Hochmuth acknowledged that "bars have their own choice," but added, "The respectful thing to do is to tell us in April. "
"To find a bar, when Chicago's the home team, and trying to get the sound on for your team on four weeks' notice is impossible," Hochmuth said.
As Hochmuth scrambled to find a new home for the fan club, the group also waged a social media campaign against Brownstone, 3937 N. Lincoln Ave., airing its grievances on Facebook, EveryBlock and Yelp, among other sites.
"The way it was handled, the excuses they made ... it makes no sense," said Hochmuth.
As for the bar's claims against the Cowboys club, Hochmuth said, "I've since been able to somewhat confirm a person bringing in some booze," but he denied the other charges.
"It also happened with Bears fans saying, 'F--- you Cutler.' I heard more than enough expletives from Bears fans," he said.
"To kick an entire group out for one, two or three people seems inappropriate, overreacting and unfair. We've got over 500 Facebook members. We've been spending money there every Sunday," Hochmuth said, estimating that 50 to 150 Cowboys supporters packed Brownstone weekly.
"One person cursing in three years makes no sense," he said. "One person bringing in booze in three years makes no sense."
Brownstone general manager Anthony Stefaneli wouldn't comment on the specifics of the split, stating only that the bar was no longer guaranteeing sound for games.
"This is a private matter. They're the ones who chose to make it public," said Ryan Indovina, director of the Four Corners Taverns group, which includes Brownstone.
Four Corners bars — Schoolyard Tavern, Kirkwood, Gaslight, among others — have a number of affiliations with fans of collegiate and professional teams, he said.
"People are looking for a place to root on their home team. We do sports bars well — lots of TVs, good food. They will largely seek us out," said Indovina. "If they can bring 'X' number of people, we try and make them as comfortable as possible."
But there's a certain level of conduct that needs to be observed by the fans, he said.
"At the base of everything, Brownstone is a neighborhood bar. The local community is respectful and family-based. That's who comes in on a daily basis," Indovina said. "We want to be respectful of all our patrons."
Cutting ties with the Cowboys fans could have been handled differently, he conceded.
"Maybe it was short notice," said Indovina. "We probably could have spoken earlier."
For Hochmuth, who was born in the Chicago area but lived in Texas as a kid and has followed the Cowboys ever since — "I used to have a Staubach jersey" — losing the communal game-day experience was never an option.
"For us, being that you're not the local team, it's all a camaraderie thing," he said. "I've met 20 great friends; there are new people every week. It's a way to hang out with people who share the same interest."
In the end, he found a new host for Cowboys fans at Commonwealth in Roscoe Village, 2000 W. Roscoe St.
The bar, which opened in February, had been looking for a team affiliation, according to owner Matt Baldino.
"We didn't want to just put anyone in there our first year. I wanted a committed organization," said Baldino, who's had prior experience dealing with sports fan clubs as a previous partner in Lakeview's Four Shadows.
"It's normally a very healthy relationship, but you have to manage expectations on both sides. These things are like any other relationship, business or personal," he said. "One or more sides tend to overpromise and underdeliver."
Hochmuth said he's ecstatic about the new bar.
"We were going to have to rent party rooms," he said.
Baldino said he was aware of the fan club's acrimonious split with Brownstone, but "I didn't even get into it with them. It doesn't matter to me."
He and Hochmuth already have hammered out food and drink specials, as well as raffles and giveaways.
"Commonwealth is going to step it up for our group. We are working on elevating our game-day experience," Hochmuth announced to club members on Facebook.
Cowboys fans flocked to Commonwealth over the weekend to check out their new digs.
"I was impressed," said Baldino. "I think they're really well-organized."
The Cowboys fans may be enjoying a honeymoon phase with their new partner, but that doesn't mean the group isn't still holding a grudge against its ex.
Of Brownstone, Hochmuth said, "We don't want them to make another nickel."
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