By Jeff Capellini
Thanks to the rise of the Seattle Seahawks, a legion of loyal patrons and social media’s seemingly endless reach, there’s a bar on the Upper East Side that may soon operate without a roof.
That’s because they take their football very seriously at Carlow East.
And this Sunday figures to be unlike any other.
The Irish pub, which has been in operation on 85th Street and Lexington Avenue for more than 50 years, has morphed into the unofficial watering hole for Seahawks fans that have either relocated from the Pacific Northwest or been home grown right here in the Tri-State area.
“I moved to New York City from Seattle on Sept. 20, 2013. My first weekend living on the Upper East Side, I found Carlow East as I was trying to figure out where I could watch the game,” fan Rita Mills told me via Facebook. “Not only was the crowd — and especially the bar staff — welcoming, but I discovered a cornerstone community from which to build my new life after 26 years in Seattle. I have made some good friends and great memories.”
Regardless of where these fans first developed their allegiances for the team that will attempt to take down Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, they’ve become an army of sorts. Through the hard work of a native New Yorker with no ties to the Pacific Northwest and ownership with a very open mind, Carlow East has turned into Seahawks fans’ very own sports bar, a place where the uninitiated would almost certainly be lost if they just happened to wander in off the street.
I found Carlow East the same way a lot of fans did, by simply Googling “Seahawks bar in NYC.” It turns out these loyalists have been connecting and passing the word through Facebook fan pages as well as Twitter for some time now. And though there are several other bars in New York City that cater to the Seahawks (as well as the Broncos), Carlow East has emerged as the premier place — along with all the widescreen TVs and Seattle-area flavor and spirits that go with it — for “12s” to call their own. The bar gives the transplants and adopted sons and daughters of the Seahawks the same type of experience as Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets and Giants fans have in seemingly every city across the nation.
Transforming Carlow East into a sort of Seattle East nest for the diehards was the brainchild of one Patrick Shalvoy, who has never lived in Seattle and has only visited the city once, but is without question as into the Seahawks as anyone who lives within earshot of what is always a raucous CenturyLink Field.
“This is like an acorn we have been watering and seeding for five years — not an instantaneous thing. The group was really small when they first started coming in. I became a fan. We pushed it on Facebook and Twitter. I told people out West if you come to New York City and want to watch the Seahawks, come to the bar,” Shalvoy told WFAN.com on Wednesday.
Shalvoy, who hails from East Islip on Long Island, went to school at SUNY Fredonia and lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, wears many helmets. He’s a bartender, a social media guru for all things Carlow East and has parlayed the bar’s success into helping out the community through various charities.
How the bar’s following started and was nurtured was about as grassroots an endeavor as there can be in today’s age of digital this and instantaneous that.
“This is five years in the making,” Shalvoy said. “Originally, in the summer of 2009, I saw a post on Facebook for a group ‘Seahawks fans in NYC.’ I wasn’t looking for anything. My buddy watches Titans games at a Titans bar and I was like, this is pretty cool. The Seahawks page said the fans were looking for a bar. I said we have the DirecTV package. I guess they hadn’t been reached out to at that point and I’m like, ‘guys, come in here.'”
And come they have.
Thanks to the Seahawks becoming one of the elite teams in the NFL over the last two years, it’s nearly impossible at times to get a good seat at the bar these days. Shalvoy, 33, said he makes a conscious effort to see that his regulars always always get in the door and get a good vantage point to watch their team on one of the bar’s nine large-screen TVs.
“This Seattle thing has really turned my bosses on. We are still an Irish bar, but on Sunday afternoons we blow the roof off of the place. We really incorporated the ’12th Man’ into our identity, ran with it on Facebook and Twitter,” Shalvoy said.
He said the demographics of the Seahawks crowd is made up largely of people who have relocated from the greater Washington state area, but there are also several native New Yorkers who have jumped on board, as well as many others from other parts of the country who got the bug while searching online. Shalvoy said all the late hours he works and free time he dedicates to promoting the bar and its tangible connection to Seattle is a labor of love, adding the friendships he’s made over the last five years are for life.
The patrons, themselves, agree.
“Seasonal friendship is an odd concept — but it’s a great thing to know that every fall and winter, there’s a place I can go with a tremendously positive and welcoming atmosphere. It’s the spirit of community at Carlow East that has lured me out of my living room and turned every Seahawk Sunday into a social experience,” said Alex Ward, who is originally from southern California but now calls Hell’s Kitchen home. “It’s a camaraderie that completely transcends the typical foundations of community; I have no sense of anyone’s politics or religion at Carlow East and that’s fine. We’re all there for the same purpose and that’s to slam blue shots and cheer for the Seahawks.”
“I love the cheers that some of the crew has came up with over the years. They are easy to learn and fun to chant! I have met lots of new friends in the last four years. It’s a pretty special place. Pat is an awesome bartender and really has a passion for Seattle sports, Seahawks especially,” added transplanted Seattleite Krista Mays.
“I have always been and will be a Seahawks fan, but Carlow East has enabled more traveling ’12th Man’ fans to have a place to call home,” said Garret Ireland of Seattle, who made the trip to our area for the Seahawks’ 23-0 win over the Giants earlier in the season.
“I was born and raised in Seattle, but moved out here for school before bouncing around and moving back to New York City in September. I didn’t discover Carlow East on my first go-around in Gotham, but now that I have, I can’t imagine my Sundays anywhere else,” fan Noah Buckley said. “There’s just so much love and energy at the bar. You chant, you dance, you hug complete strangers when the game breaks your way. It’s a community and an experience that I will forever cherish and, provided I’m not at the game in-person, it’s the only place that I ever want to watch the Hawks game.”
Asked when he knew he was really on to something with the Seahawks fan base invading the bar, Shalvoy said the answer was obvious: Seahawks vs. Saints, NFC wild card playoffs, Jan. 8, 2011.
“The ‘Beast Quake’ run was one of the loudest moments in the history of a very old bar,” Shalvoy said, referring to Marshawn Lynch’s epic 67-yard touchdown jaunt through every member of the New Orleans defense.
As mentioned earlier, the bar’s success isn’t just about people with something in common gathering on Sundays. It’s also about helping out the less fortunate. Carlow East has had a toy drive for 30 years and recently incorporated it into work to benefit Ronald McDonald House and a soup kitchen in Hempstead. This past year the bar donated $8,500 to the charities through raffles and monies raised from the tailgate party prior to the game back in December at MetLife.
Speaking of parties, there’s obviously a pretty big one coming up Sunday. Due to incredible demand and the need to cater to its regulars, Carlow East chose to sell tickets and quickly sold out. However, the bar has sister establishments and there remains some space availability, Shalvoy said. Those looking to attend should check out O’Flanagan’s on First Avenue between 65th and 66th streets and the Flatiron Hotel at 9 W. 26th St. Both are official 12th Man watch parties, Shalvoy added.
There’s a rumor seismologists will be paying a lot more attention than usual to the New York City area this weekend. Why? Well, fan Mike Caughey of Seattle pretty much summed up what the Carlow East experience should be like with the epicenter of the NFL’s signature event a little less than 10 miles away.
“I think it might actually get crazier there than a lot of sports bars in Seattle since it is THE place to be in New York City on Sundays and the place is absolutely packed to the gills,” Caughey said.
Make no mistake: they are an East Coast “Legion Of Boom” and not going anywhere soon.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
Other Seattle- and Denver-themed NYC bars to check out on Super Sunday include:
Seahawks: Feile: 131 W. 33rd St., off Seventh Ave.; Uptown Restaurant & Lounge: 1576 Third Ave., at 88th Street; Central Bar: 109 E. Ninth St., near Cooper Square.
Broncos: Mustang Harry’s: Seventh Avenue, near 30th Street; Butterfield 8: 5 E. 38th St., near Fifth Avenue; Mustang Sally’s: 324 Seventh Ave., at 28th Street; Keats: 842 Second Ave., at 45th Street.
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