Aaron Rodgers' tweet put 'extra skip in our step' for owners of struggling NYC Packers bar Kettle of Fish
A famed Green Bay Packers bar in New York City is counting on the same sense of family and community that has made it a home away from home for Wisconsinites for two decades to help save it.
Kettle of Fish in Greenwich Village has been closed since March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic and, like bars and restaurants across the country, is facing economic hardship. On Monday, it launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $100,000 to "help navigate this uncertain future and try to keep our doors open" once bars in the city are allowed to reopen with limited capacity, whenever that may be.
The neighborhood gathering spot that turned 70 in June — a place that’s wall-to-wall Packers jerseys on game days, with fans singing along to “I Love My Green Bay Packers” after each touchdown — is owned by Wauwatosa native Patrick Daley. That explains the aged cheddar and crackers, summer sausage and Usinger’s brats that feed hungry crowds known to line up hours before kickoff to get a seat.
Prior to the pandemic, the bar had never been closed for so much as day in the 21 years Daley has owned it at its current Christopher Street location. Even on Christmas Day, he opens at 6 p.m.
The extended shutdown, with only drinks-to-go sales, has made paying rent on the building, once a popular literary hangout for the likes of Bob Dylan, Norman Mailer and Jack Kerouac in the 1950s and '60s, a challenge.
"The raising of the money is to help keep us afloat with the landlord," Daley said.
The GoFundMe campaign got an MVP word-of-mouth boost when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers retweeted a link to it with the hashtag #savethekettle. That was quite a surprise to Daley and his partner of 27 years, Adriane.
"To tell you the truth, the whole thing has been heartwarming, people's responses, but it certainly put an extra skip in our step seeing Aaron tweet it. We were like, 'Whoa!'" Daley said.
Rodgers knows a little something about the joint. He dropped by last year.
He posed for a photo with Daley (in a Rhinelander T-shirt, of course), Adriane and one of six Gatorade coolers used on the sidelines during Super Bowl XLV that was sent to the bar by retired Packers athletic trainer Pepper Burruss in 2012.
The cooler, with its history handwritten by Burruss on the bottom, has become a popular photo op at the bar. Fans can't resist pointing in disbelief to the bottom, so Patrick and Adriane talked Rodgers into re-creating the same kind of pose, but with his autograph added to the front.
It’s just one piece of Packers memorabilia Daley has filled the mom-and-pop place with over the years. There are signed helmets from Bart Starr and Brett Favre, bobbleheads, photos and pennants.
The list of famous Kettle of Fish visitors includes Jerry Kramer, John Brockington, Dave Robinson, and if you’re from northeast Wisconsin, the Pulaski High School Red Raider Marching Band (and parents) after an appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
But it’s mostly regular folks, many of them with Wisconsin ties, who flock to the Kettle of Fish to cheer on their team, toast the camaraderie and familiarity of home and belt out “The Bears Still Suck Polka.”
Green Bay native and 2005 Notre Dame Academy graduate Annie Kiefer lives in Brooklyn and has been going to the Kettle for 10 years. It's a special pace for her and other Wisconsin transplants, thanks in no small part to Daley and "his welcoming and generous spirit, propensity for shorts in all temperatures and fantastic accent," she said. "It truly is a little piece of Green Bay in the middle of the West Village."
Beyond the game day fun, the bar has other traditions that make it feel like home, Kiefer said, including pumpkin carving on Halloween and free Thanksgiving dinner.
"It would be a real loss to the community if they couldn't make it through this crisis," she said.
Daley likes to think that aside from Lambeau Field there's not a better place to watch a Packers game than the Kettle. He's well acquainted with both experiences. His family’s season tickets (he’s one of 10 sons) date to 1957 when his dad first got them. His father was from Green Bay and his mom from De Pere. Daley spent a lot of time in the area visiting relatives as a kid.
His humble, homegrown Packers bar in the middle of America's biggest city has received accolades from The Village Voice, which ranked the "1950-era subterranean Village lair" No. 2 on a 2013 list of best sports bars in the city. The New York Times has described it as “a friendly slice of the Midwest in the bustling heart of Lower Manhattan.” Even the Packers have done a video feature on the Kettle.
It's the people who make it what it is, Daley said. He gets choked up when he thinks about the bar once again alive with happy Packers fans watching their team play football.
"We'll get there. We'll get there," he said. "A Packers game at the Kettle of Fish, they're some of my highest points of the year, so we look very much forward to that happening in the future."
As of Wednesday evening, the GoFundMe campaign to help save Kettle of Fish had already raised more than $32,000.
Contact Kendra Meinert at 920-431-8347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KendraMeinert.