“We just wanted a place to drink with our friends and cheer for the Crew.”
It’s a simple beginning, one to which many soccer supporters' groups across the US can relate. And this sentiment formed the impetus for perhaps the biggest project by Hudson Street Hooligans, the oldest still-active supporters' group for Columbus Crew SC. Open since 2013, Hendoc's, an HSH-founded spot, has now become a de facto center of Crew SC supporter life in Columbus.
Active since 2005, the Hudson Street Hooligans trace their beginnings to a small group of friends who banded together to support the Crew, winding up gathering at a bar called Ruby Tuesday near the stadium as their meeting spot. It was this unassuming spot that would serve as the genesis for something bigger, and Jon Winland was there at the start.
“It was kind of a perfect storm,” says Winland, who happened to be working at that Ruby Tuesday at the time. “Grant Thurman and his brothers were big Crew [not yet SC] fans, and a lot of their friends came down for games, so they all started going together. Me and [the general manager of the venue] ended up going to games with those guys."
But when it came to Columbus away games, at the time, they found it a struggle to convince any other bars to show it. So again, Ruby Tuesday became the place, with Hudson Street Hooligans growing from that original core of friends. The group grew quickly, its ranks and reputation on the local soccer scene expanding.
Their numbers grew to dozens, then 50, then 100. Several of the founding HSH members renovated the basement of Ruby’s into a space designed almost specifically to watch Columbus away matches, but even with the updates, they were soon running out of room.
“Now they had a bunch of dudes hanging around always watching soccer," recalls Winland. "So it just made more sense for us to get our own place." Up the street, he and Thurman soon opened their first joint venture venue, Hooligans.
This marked a special first for Columbus: a bar that was dedicated solely to soccer, and more specifically, Columbus soccer. It wasn’t a bar that happened to show soccer, or an Irish pub that played the Premier League.
This was a Crew bar to its core. It was within walking distance from the stadium, as Ruby’s was, and featured a mural on the side of the building of a Crew player mid-scissor-kick. Even its awning was black and gold.
The old HSH home base.
Business boomed from the get-go, so after the first year, the group doubled the size of the bar. Things continued to go well, so ownership bought the building next door, looking to put in a team-themed barber-shop. This is where things went wrong.
“The city inspector was doing the final walk-through of the barber shop and saw that their water pipes ran through [the bar’s] basement," Winland says. “He came in and looked around, and said we weren’t zoned for bar use.”
Hooligans tried to hang on, securing special permits to stay open for matches, but could no longer function as a normal bar. Eventually, owners made the tough decision to close it down.
Yet it wouldn't be long before Hudson Street Hooligans found another proper home of their own. Just a couple of blocks away from the old Hooligans site, they wound up at Hendoc's Bar. Situated close to Ohio State University, locals knew it more as a campus hangout than soccer bar, but HSH flocked there after Hooligan’s closed -- especially because Winland was also involved in its ownership group.
Hendoc’s featured a similar interior layout to Hooligans, and eventually began to re-capture some of the match-day feeling of its predecessor. As HSH continued to thrive and evolve, watching away matches there became ritual, and Hendoc’s stature as a go-to place for Crew SC events grew.
In 2013 Hendoc’s began to host tapings of the Massive Report Podcast, Crew SC’s oldest podcast. Later that year it also became a stop on then-new Crew SC investor/operator Anthony Precourt’s “Meet the Fans” tour. In 2014 the bar hosted head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter for a Q&A -- which famously turned into an Ethan Finlay contract-extension signing, much to the surprise of the fans there.
These days, Hendoc's continues to thrive as an epicenter of the Crew SC community. “To me, it’s always just been about having a place of our own, to get together and support the team,” Winland says. “Whatever bar it’s been, it’s about having that good, passionate, match-day experience. It’s loud, it’s fun, it’s what HSH is all about.”