Separated by eight blocks on the north side of Chicago, two bars that cater to distinctly different crowds – Delilah’s and Lincoln Station – are connected by dedicated Bills fans.
“We’re primarily a rock and roll bar, a combination of the original Pink Flamingo and The Continental,” said Delilah’s owner Mike Miller, a Kenmore West High School and University at Buffalo graduate. “We’re not a sports bar. If the Cubs are in the playoffs, we have one TV showing the game. But on Sundays, we show the Bills and we throw a party. We’re wedged in here, standing-room only, chanting, cheering and having fun.”
“Lincoln Station can get pretty rowdy, too,” said Sujit Janardhan, Bills Backers of Chicago president and a Rochester native. “We sing the Shout! song and all that. But it’s a lighter environment. You can bring your kid.”
While Delilah’s fills to capacity with about 125 people crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in the whiskey bar, more than 200 Bills fans fill in the spacious split-room Lincoln Station during games.
“It’s very much two different groups,” said Lars Weborg, Bills Backers of Chicago vice president. “You’re a Delilah’s Bills fan, or a Lincoln Station Bills fan.”
Miller opened Delilah’s in 1993 and began showing Bills games when the NFL Sunday Ticket package became available in 2000. He has come to appreciate the Lincoln Station crew that formed five years later.
“To have a big community around two different places in Chicago is awesome,” Miller said. “And we can’t fit any more people in here anyways.”
Delilah’s, which only opens on Sunday afternoon for Bills games, has a number of quirky traditions. There are Bills logos on the shot glasses and Miller’s barbecue fork. During commercials, Miller will play famous Van Miller and Rick Jeanneret calls, the “Talkin’ Proud” jingle or interview a talking, cardboard Jim Kelly cutout. And every week, the group sings the “Third Quarter Stretch” together.
"Take me out to Delilah’s/ Take me out to get plowed
Buy me a Blue and a shot or two/ This is the home of the Buffalo Crew"
The Lincoln Station group originated when Janardhan tried to organize a gameday gathering at Delilah’s, but couldn’t get in touch with Miller.
“I always tell them, our group wouldn’t exist if they answered their emails,” Janardhan said.
Janardhan settled on Lincoln Station, which is owned by a Cleveland native, because a bartender from Erie, Pa., tuned one of the TVs to the Bills game every week.
“The whole bar was covered in Cleveland stuff,” Janardhan said. “But over time, it started to get packed in the Bills section and the Browns section was empty, because, you know, it’s the Browns.
“The Bills are an undeniable force and Bills fans will find each other no matter where we are. It’s crazy that a team that has a 17-year playoff drought still has these fans that are so ravenous. But people are proud of where they came from. The same reason I will fight anyone who says there is a better supermarket than Wegmans is the same reason I will be a Bills fan until I die and won’t accept my daughter being anything but a Bills fan.”
In 2009, the Bills Backers of Chicago began broadcasting their fandom through the “Bills and Beers” podcast. Weborg, Janardhan and co-host Cassie Hutton record episodes from Lincoln Station after every game that get more than 400 weekly downloads.
“You get the raw, immediate takes with an afternoon of Labatt Blue flowing,” Weborg said. “I’ve probably compromised any aspirations of running for public office with this podcast.”
Chapter: Bills Backers of Chicago
Membership: More than 200
Gathering place: Lincoln Station, 2432 N. Lincoln Ave.
Tradition: “Bills and Beers”podcast
Chapter: Delilah’s Bills Backers
Membership: About 125
Gathering place: Delilah’s, 2771 N. Lincoln Ave.
Tradition: “Third Quarter Stretch” song
Jonah Bronstein is a BNblitz.com contributor. If your Bills Backers chapter has a unique story, reach out to him at email@example.com.