Why Women’s Sports Enthusiast Jillian Hiscock Opened A Bar of Their Own

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Followers of women’s sports teams often share a common sentiment: it can be so damn hard to be a fan sometimes. According to Jillian Hiscock, “You need a darn near master’s degree in streaming services to be able to become a women’s sports fan,” referring to the fact that women’s sporting events are rarely available through one consistent medium — if at all.

That’s why Hiscock, 40, decided to create a women’s sports bar, A Bar of Their Own, which opened March 1 in her hometown of Minneapolis, MN.

Hiscock is a lifelong sports fan and athlete, playing tennis, gymnastics, and softball growing up. She still plays in a women’s recreational softball league through Minneapolis Park and Recreation and competes in the Stonewall Kickball league, a gay kickball league in the Twin Cities. But she’s never felt like these groups had a place to gather, other than the field.

While working as a volunteer coordinator with the Women’s Final Four in 2022, Hiscock caught wind of the opening of The Sports Bra in Portland, OR, a first-of-its-kind women’s-focused sports bar. “I was currently surrounded by all these women’s sports fans, putting on this huge women’s sporting event, and we were all just like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so incredible. We have to do that. Who’s going to do it here?'” she says.

Hiscock immediately reached out to The Sports Bra’s owner, Jenny Nguyen, for guidance and started researching similar bars she knew of, including Rough and Tumble in Seattle and Icarus Wings and Things in Salem, OR. She quickly learned that she and Nguyen shared similar experiences, having attempted to watch women’s sporting events at traditional sports bars only to get their requests rejected.

“The Minnesota Gopher softball team was in a national tournament, and I was at a self-proclaimed sports bar, which I now call a ‘men’s sports bar,’ in downtown Minneapolis, which was less than two miles away from the campus of the University of Minnesota,” Hiscock recalls. “They were on a national television network, and it was fairly well publicized that they were playing in the national tournament.” But when Hiscock walked into the bar and asked about putting on the game, the staff wasn’t accommodating. “They gave me just a ton of lip about it,” she tells POPSUGAR.

“It’s basically impossible to be a casual women’s sports fan because there’s no way to just walk into a bar and watch women’s sports,” she says. “You have to know to ask for it, you have to know what channel it’s on, and you have to really understand the landscape in order to be casual about it, which doesn’t allow you to be casual about it.” That’s just not the case with men-dominated sports, Hiscock argues. Take football, for example, where the majority of people know something about the sport just because it’s on all the time, she says. “Imagining what the conversation would look like if we were having those same discussions about women’s athletics was really a big part of the motivation for me,” Hiscock tells POPSUGAR.

“Yes, we’re seeing progress, but none of us need to be satisfied with 15 percent of all sports coverage being women’s athletes.”

In September 2023, Hiscock announced her intention to open A Bar of Their Own. She launched a crowdfunding campaign, which raised about $205,000 in donations from supporters not just in Minnesota, but from 40 states and four other countries: Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Other cities are following suit, with bars slated to open in New York City, Chicago, and London, with owners now reaching out to Hiscock for support and advice, as she did with Nguyen.

That said, it’s going to take more than women’s sports bars to solve the inaccessibility problem, Hiscock says. Media companies also need to step up when it comes to broadcasting and streaming women’s sports. Hiscock cited 2023 data from the Wasserman Collective showing that women’s sports coverage tripled in the last five years, which may seem like good news on the surface, but is actually pretty bleak when you realize it’s only gone from five to 15 percent.

“Yes, we’re seeing progress, but none of us need to be satisfied with 15 percent of all sports coverage being women’s athletes,” she says. “That’s not enough and is not OK.” Hiscock is proud to be the owner of a bar where everyone agrees on that.

In cultivating a space where women’s sports fans feel comfortable, Hiscock says she’s been very intentional about who the bar employs and supports — noting that it won’t tolerate vendors, distributors, or partners who may be racist, sexist, or homophobic.

She also hopes A Bar of Their Own is a place where young people feel safe. “I really do truly believe that we can change the trajectory of where things are going even faster when we have young boys and girls coming to see women’s sports on TV and seeing that as the norm and not as an exception,” she tells POPSUGAR.

In terms of upcoming events, Hiscock already has a full calendar with the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament, March Madness, the Professional Women’s Hockey League playoffs, and the Paris Olympic Games coming up. The Minnesota Lynx will also be hosting a few upcoming events at the bar, she adds.

“To be in a bar where everybody’s collectively cheering for women athletes is going to be such a cool experience,” Hiscock says. “So I’m looking forward to big events, and I’m looking forward to just casual afternoons when there are people in here and there’s not anything special on TV, but they’re just here, surrounded by women athletes and fellow women athlete supporters.”

Image Source: Courtesy of Jillian Hiscock

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