By Theodore N. Beitchman
It’s just before 1 on a Wednesday afternoon, and the hippest sports bar in Philly is quietly getting ready for its next act.
Only chef Robert Faust is around, and he’s checking inventory and answering emails.
It’s quiet because we’re one floor below 17th St. — a block from the sound and fury of Rittenhouse Square — and the action doesn’t start again till 4.
Just then, co-owner Justin Veasey and his consigliere Sue Jacquette arrive to meet an interviewer who is waiting on one of the luxurious sofas in the sleek space that features a healthy array of sports memorabilia.
Including a copy of the Notre Dame slogan of coach Lou Holtz days that hits you square as you walk down the stairs:
PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION TODAY
That could also be the motto of Stats on 17th, https://www.statson17.com/ the just-opened sports-bar-cum-hipster-lounge where watching fun and games on weeknights, Saturdays and Sundays turns into a jam-packed hot spot for the 18-to-34-year-old crowd on weekend nights.
Two mostly different groups of customers.
Which means two distinct revenue streams.
One team of employees and managers overseeing the crowds and the food and drink.
In business they call that economy of scale.
At Stats on 17th, they call it a meeting of the minds.
The partners — or champions, if you will — in this new business that opened on Sept. 5, just in time for the Eagles season, are Veasey and Danny Govberg.
And they champion one another.
“I have learned a lot from Danny,” Justin says.
“Justin is a smart guy and he works day and night,” Danny says.
The two met when Veasey, 25, was a bartender at Del Frisco’s — Govberg’s real estate partner Joe Byrnes hooked them up.
Veasey is a South Philly-born, South Jersey-bred Rowan grad who cut his teeth in the bar biz at Chickie’s & Pete’s mother ship on Packer Avenue in South Philly.
“I was a barback when I was 17,” he says about his first job at Chickie’s — a runner and bartender’s assistant. “I liked the action and the tips. I knew this business was for me.”
That led to a bartender’s gig, and he summered down the shore and tended bar at the Greenhouse, the famous meat market in Margate. Then it was on to Del Frisco’s, the steak emporium at 15th and Chestnut, where he bartended for five years.
Govberg is the 57-year-old legatee of a business that opened in 1916 on South Street as Govberg Jewelers, and Danny has grown it exponentially since he took over from his father Irv in 1987. Today, Govberg is one of the last Philly jewelers standing from a grand tradition of stores that once dotted Jewelers Row on Sansom Street and the tonier blocks along Walnut.
There are three Govberg retail stores — 1521 Walnut and in Suburban Square in Ardmore across from the Apple store, plus one in the Cleveland burbs.
He is also an entrepreneur who has branched out into real estate and video, not to mention cornering the market in pre-owned watches and Rolexes.
So, what do these two guys have in common?
Not much at first, or so it would seem.
“I wanted it to be a sports bar,” Danny says.
“I wanted it to be a club,” Justin responds.
The result is a combination that has gotten off to a fast start.
And the Stats space may be more familiar to hipsters as G Lounge, which Govberg opened in 2007 and closed in 2013. It is mammoth — not as big as Chickie’s on Packer, but much more intimate.
“We’ve got 23 flat screens,” Justin says.
“Soon to be 30,” Sue corrects.
“We’ve got seating for 96, including the couches,” Justin adds.
“And we’re adding more,” Sue updates as she looks up from texting.
The menu — which includes a fine Greek salad and tasty nachos — can best be described as classic Philly sports bar fare.
“We’re changing it soon,” Justin points out, “and adding a happy hour from 5 to 7.”
The vibe at Stats is key:
And the scene has included several local players, most notably Eagles primo defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
“He’s a good friend of mine” Justin says. “He likes it, and he’ll be back.”
The design and the food have been overseen by Danny’s wife Ashley, who also bought the Notre Dame sign.
And the name has the happy advantage of appealing to both sports fans and hipsters:
STATS because the whole sports world is in love with analytics.
STATS because that’s the text shorthand for STATUS.
Sue works for Danny in his day job: “She’s great; she helps me with special projects,” says Danny, whose other businesses include student housing in the Temple area; 2301 Allegheny Hospital, a drug and alcohol rehab facility; and Seaport Pier in North Wildwood.
Oh, and cBOP, which sells “clothing for Instagram Influencers” on Lancaster Avenue in Haverford.
If you’ve heard or seen the name Govberg, it’s probably from the classic-looking Rolex ads on TV.
And at heart, Danny is an entrepreneur.
Which is why he co-founded WATCHBOX, which has cornered the market on luxury pre-owned timepieces.
“I figured that people liked to trade in cars like Mercedeses, so why not watches?”
And if you think a combo sports bar and lounge is a wifty idea, check out the hoards of Millennials standing on line on 17th street waiting to get in on weekend nights:
“Tee Fish knows the city and so many people, so bringing him on was a no brainier,” Justin says. “We are lucky to have him and his many talents.”
And the $10 cover charge only gets you in the door. Everything else, including the $200 bottle service, which gets you a bottle, a mixer and a table, is extra.
“Most every other clubs charge $400 a bottle,” Justin points out. “Our prices attract the young crowd.”
That’s a 25-year-old business brain that a 57-year old can appreciate!