If St. Louis sports fans don’t know what “the pitch” is, they soon will—in more ways than one. Besides being a soccer reference, The Pitch Athletic Club & Tavern will be the name of the new 200-seat sports and soccer bar at Union Station, slated to open on 20th Street, near Centene Stadium, in the first quarter of 2023, “long before the first kickoff in April,” says Blaise Pastoret, director of restaurants at Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM).
“As soon as the MLS Stadium became a reality, we began thinking soccer bars,” Pastoret recalls. “Then Ted Lasso came out, and a lot of people became more familiar with soccer and its respective terms, including ‘the pitch,’ the name for the field on which it is played. Soccer fans are familiar with the term, but by the time St. Louis CITY SC begins their season, everybody will be,” Pastoret says.
Created by the team at LHM and designed by The Lawrence Group, The Pitch will be located in a 9,000-square-foot space at the northwest corner of Union Station (at 20th Street), a space last occupied by Señior Julio’s (not to be confused with Uncle Julio’s in Frontenac). The tagline ‘Athletic Club & Tavern’ was added to help explain the concept. “It’s not a private or dues-paying club,” Pastoret says, “but club in the sense of a club soccer, with ‘athletic’ alluding to the sports bar idea and ‘tavern’ connoting great beer and upscale food.
“Until now, Amsterdam Tavern has been the only other soccer bar in town,” Pastoret adds. “The pints start flowing early for the weekend matches, there’s always a line out the door, and their food came from next door at The Dam, until it closed last week. So with or without a team, there was a void to be filled.”
The Pitch is slated to open early—“6:30ish”—on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to accommodate and attract local soccer fans, but the sports bar appeal will be there all day and night, says Pastoret. “If you’re thinking ‘sports bar downtown,’ we want The Pitch to be the name that comes to mind.”
The menu will focus on distinctive sandwiches and bar appetizers. One attraction will be products from Carnegie Deli, the 85-year-old Manhattan institution, which will license its use on qualified restaurant menus. Expect to see oversized sandwiches on New York-style rye bread, bulging with corned beef and pastrami, plus all-beef hot dogs, potato knishes, and signature cheesecakes, along with black and white cookies.
Also featured on the lunch and dinner menus will be riffs on St. Louis themed-foods, such as a Dr. Pepper–braised pork steak, a big-as-your-face toasted ravioli, and different iterations of gooey butter cake. And since The Pitch will open early for breakfast on weekends, iterations of the St. Louis slinger are being considered. The remainder of the menu is still being developed by Kellon McCardie, the chef who created similar offerings at the 10,000-square-foot Westport Social, another LHM venue.
Along with a full bar, The Pitch will offer a wide variety of sports bar–style beers, including Europeans, domestics, and local and seasonal crafts.
The Pitch will have a “Las Vegas sports bar vibe, with high design and high energy, while at the same time being comfortable and nostalgic,” says Steve O’Loughlin, president & COO of LHM.
“The design calls for weathered wood and leather seating areas, says Pastoret. The description conjures images of two other LHM venues, Basso and The Back Room cigar bar at The Cheshire. “It’ll feel like a well-maintained pub, lived in, like it’s been there awhile,” he says.
On the walls will be memorabilia and vintage athletic jerseys celebrating St. Louis sports history past and present, major and minor league teams, “and there are a lot of them,” Pastoret notes, mentioning as possibilities the basketball Hawks; the Blues and St. Louis Eagles in hockey; the football Cardinals, Gunners, Rams, and Battlehawks; and the Steamers, Stars, and Ambush in soccer. “We see it as a history lesson and a walk down memory lane,” Pastoret says.
Hammered tin ceilings will be added in certain areas, a large “ribbon” TV will beacon the main bar, with ancillary TVs anchoring each dedicated seating section. O’Loughlin says the space is large enough to accommodate a private event and the public simultaneously, and there will be “buyout opportunities, connectivity between the [Union Station] venues since they’re all on our campus.”
The venue will also include an outdoor seating area along the side of the building equipped with heaters and misters, as well as “gaslights along the building, to make it look as European and Old World as we possibly can,” says Pastoret.
“Now that St. Louis has a team and a stadium, we’re really excited about opening a cool soccer and sports bar steps away from all the action,” he adds. “There couldn’t be a more perfect location.”