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Seriously, Stop Putting TVs in Your Restaurants

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The trend of playing “SportsCenter” on nearly every public TV in the nation is one of the great scourges of our time.

It’s one thing if you’re a burn-and-turn, counter-service burger place, where the most salient piece of décor is a Golden State Warriors poster. But if you’re an actual restaurant, with table service, where somebody put serious thought into interior design and people sit down to spend more than $25 a person, don’t put TVs in your restaurant.

Because, inevitably, they’re just going to end up showing “SportsCenter.”

There’s nothing I want less in the world than to be eating a brilliant, complex, beautifully prepared meal and look up to see Chris Berman’s sweaty face talking about sports, on mute. (I know Berman isn’t on the show anymore, but that’s not the point.) The point is that we spend all day glued to some kind of flashing screen or another. We don’t need any more of them ruining the vibe you worked so hard to create.

It would be one thing to play cool videos that accentuate a restaurant’s theme, like Blowfish Sushi does with anime. But that’s not what happens. We know it’s going to end up on “SportsCenter.” It always does.

Blowfish actually used to play anime porn — it was both weird and amazing — but they stopped when the neighborhood changed and people started to complain they couldn’t bring their kids. (Here’s an idea: If you don’t want your kids to see bizarre anime porn, don’t bring them to the anime porn sushi restaurant.)

Right now, some of you are thinking, “Stuart, you’re a hypocrite. You’re telling people how to run their restaurant while talking shit about the people who told Blowfish how to run their restaurant.” Here’s the difference: There are eleventy-thousand places that play “SportsCenter.” There was one that played strange Japanese cartoon tentacle porn.

“SportsCenter” is the lowest common denominator. It’s the equivalent of elevator music for your eyeballs — but worse, because they aren’t even showing sports most of the time. They’re just talking about them. It’s for people who can’t think of anything more interesting to watch.

We live in a world where there’s access to nearly everything that has ever been on TV or in a movie theater, yet we tolerate this kind of cultural cop-out. If your restaurant is going to play flashing, moving images that our eyeballs are preternaturally attracted to, then be dope about it. Be bold, be amazing, be thoughtful. Just don’t be “SportsCenter.”

The same goes for bars. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked up at the screen and seen the same 15-minute clip of people talking about sports, on mute, over and over again. At least with bars, there’s usually at least one TV that has closed captioning turned on. But it’s still absurd.

If you’re a sports bar, at least throw on classic sports, so there’s something worth paying attention to. But as it is, the trend of playing “SportsCenter” on nearly every public TV in the nation is one of the great scourges of our time.

So, here’s my challenge, and it’s not very challenging: Just try. If you insist on having TVs, show something interesting. It can be weird documentaries or classic movies or ’80s high-school flicks or “Rick and Morty.” Anything other than a bunch of dudes talking about sports on mute.

If I wanted that, I’d go to TGI Friday’s. After all, they’ve got great stuffed jalapeño poppers.


This originally appeared in my Broke-Ass City column for the SF Examiner.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

I've been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle , "an SF cult hero": SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York, but to those familiar with my work, I'm just "that douchebag who writes books about cheap stuff and drinks a lot".