For two decades, Bills fans in San Francisco have connected at Northstar Cafe.
For two Rochester-area natives, the Bills backer bar facilitated a love connection.
Maggie Ratigan and Jeff Leathersich never met the first time they lived in the same city. When Leathersich moved to San Francisco in 2015, one of the first things he did was seek out a place to watch Bills games. After hanging out regularly at Northstar Cafe, the couple started dating and are engaged to be married in October.
“The thing about Northstar that is striking to me is you always meet somebody from your hometown,” said Leathersich, who grew up in Greece. “We get people in here from out of town stopping in every Sunday.
“The first time I came, it was so welcoming for me. It was like, this is home, these are my people. And that kind of thing happens on a weekly basis.”
Northstar Cafe has continued to welcome Bills fans through two ownership changes over the past 20 years. The dive bar doesn’t serve food and thus doesn’t have tables, allowing it to fit more than 100 people on game days. The party starts at around 9:30 a.m.
“Everyone is there usually with a coffee in one hand and Labatt Blue in the other,” Leathersich said. “It’s the only bar in the city where you can get a Labatt Blue.”
Ratigan, an Irondequoit native, initiated the formation of the current SF Bills Backers chapter prior to last season. The leadership group includes Leathersich, Kailey Cartwright of Buffalo, Tyler Stegall of Canandaigua, and Monty Hossain, who was born in Poland and raised in Egypt but became a Bills fan while attending the University of Rochester.
“We don’t play the ‘Shout’ song but Monty sings it himself,” Ratigan said.
The club hosted a tailgate party when the Bills played in nearby Oakland last season. Bills legend Andre Reed joined the party, drinking Blue and playing Kan-Jam. Reed wound up riding back to San Francisco on the group’s bus and “gave a rousing speech about Bills fans,” Ratigan said.
Northstar Cafe owner Mark Jennings holds an annual Fan Appreciation event for the Bills backers, offering free drinks during the first half. This year’s party will be during the Dec. 17 game against Miami.
"He loves having us and wants to show his appreciation," Ratigan said.
Chapter: SF Bills Backers
Membership: Almost 300 fans on email list
Founded: Gathering for more than 20 years
Gathering place: Northstar Cafe, 1560 Powell St., San Francisco
Tradition: Annual Fan Appreciation party
Jonah Bronstein is a BNblitz.com contributor. If your Bills Backers chapter has a unique story, reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story topics: Bills Backers