If the giant Chicago Cubs logo painted on the bar’s exterior isn’t inviting enough, then a free drink for every home run should convince fans to join the Cubs Club at Marty’s Tap.
A typical night at the Court Street bar will have its patrons gathered around the front counter or conversing with one another at a tall table surrounded by half-empty beer bottles and shot glasses. But when the Cubbies are on, a new breed of customers ventures into Marty’s wearing blue and red T-shirts and caps. The members order their drinks and keep their eyes fixed on the wall-mounted TVs screening baseball action. On game days, Marty’s becomes a place of solitude for Cubs fans. It’s a place where bad calls are answered with shaking fists and maybe an expletive or two, and the good moments are shared with clanging glasses and loud, boisterous shouts.
Marty’s co-owner Kelly Quinn couldn’t guess just how long the Cubs Club has been around, only that it has existed for “several years” prior to him taking ownership of the bar nearly a year ago. “It’s something that’s progressively getting bigger each year,” he said.
To be a Cubs Club member, one must only pay a $40 fee. This gives affiliates an exclusive Cubs Club T-shirt and lanyard.
“What it does is brings a bunch of Cubs fans together — that kind of makes us the ‘Cubs bar,’ which Marty’s has been for a long time,” said Quinn. “Plus, if you are here when the game is on and there’s a home run from the Cubs you will get a free drink.”
Last year, he added, there were a couple hundred home runs from the Cubs. That’s a lot of free drinks. In fact, Quinn encourages regular patrons who aren’t fans of the Cubbies to join the club in order to enjoy the perks.
Coming off the Cub’s World Series win last year, Quinn noticed an increase in club members from 33 to 81. But Quinn expects that number will likely continue to grow through the season since registration is available anytime.
Marty’s Tap is also known for catering to Iowa Hawkeyes fans during football season, offering a Hawks Club with similar benefits and perks to guests. With only a few games in the season, Quinn pointed out that the energy and atmosphere during football games can get quite vibrant. The Cubs games, on the other hand, are more reserved.
“Baseball can be a very slow game,” he said. “There could be many times where nothing happens in a baseball game or you score no runs. But it’s pretty much the same thing [as the football games], but on a smaller scale. And there are also a 162 games in baseball, whereas there’s 12 in football.”
By the time the Cubs were competing in the final games of the World Series, Marty’s became a second home for fans. About 75 Cubs fans crammed into the small bar during the final night.
Fans stuck around and the celebrations lasted until closing time. Quinn reckoned the true Cubs fans took the day off from work after game seven of the World Series. A memory of that game hangs on the wall -- a framed Chicago newspaper announcing the Cub’s monumental win.
“It was incredible,” said Quinn. “It was one of those times where you will never forget where you were. And there were a lot of people. People were hugging and crying at the end of the game. It was actually insane. It was definitely one of the great ‘Marty’s moments’ I’ve ever had.”
Cubs Club member Joe “The Plumber” Luse was at Marty’s during every World Series game last year. A fan of the Cubs since he was 5 years old, Luse has been regularly watching games ever since Quinn took over Marty’s Tap. The 50-year-old baseball fan made sure he was the first person to sign up for the 2017 Cubs Club, having enjoyed the ambiance, the company and the perks of being a member.
“It’s like crazy excitement,” he said. “Everyone’s chanting ‘Let’s go Cubbies!’ Even when they’re down we’re chanting. It’s really an uplifting atmosphere, it really is. It’s one of the better places I went to see Cubs games.”
But now Marty’s is the only place he frequents to watch Cubs games, Luse added. It’s there that Luse can surround himself with other like-minded fans, long-time or otherwise. Chontelle Carter fancies herself as a newer fan of the Cubs, having signed up as a club member for just a few years.
Admittedly, Carter is originally a Kansas City Royals fan, but that doesn’t stop her from wearing her Cubs Club T-shirt during games at Marty’s. While the home run refills are great perks, Carter said the best part is watching the game with everyone.
“Because that’s how I started paying better attention to certain things,” she said. “In high school, I didn’t start paying attention to games until I became a cheerleader and I had to pay attention. Here, everyone pays attention. Home runs, bad calls, everyone is in on it. It’s not just you yelling at the TV.”
Everyone, she added, is close or comfortable with one another during games.
“It’s a chosen family,” said Carter. “It’s just a good vibe here. It’s something I associate with Marty’s.”
When the fans gather, something special occurs at Marty’s. Maybe it’s the Old Style beer or those fancy lemon drop shots the bartender prepares behind the counter, but whatever it is, the energy takes off during Cubs games. While they may not be as uproarious as the college football games, that sense of fellowship is still there and the passion for the game is as strong as it is in Wrigley Field.
“You can get some pretty big die-hard fans,” said Quinn. “When they’re winning or home runs hit, it gets pretty magical inside of Marty’s during a Cubs game.”