Jocks • Bluffton’s Sports Bar and Grill
Author: Kate Hanzalik | Photographer: John Brackett
“Sometimes when I reflect back on all the beer I drink I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, ‘It is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.’”
The last time I was at Jocks I didn’t want to leave. After an hour or so of playing pool and touch screen, my friend and I found ourselves dueling against a couple of regulars in darts – a tall tech guy with consistently impeccable aim, and a witty surfer with dreads and penchant for dark beer. The competition was fierce, but it was all in good fun. And I felt somewhat of a responsibility to stay because our server worked so tirelessly to ensure that our beer bucket was always full.Most of us bar wanderers know the excitement can dwindle faster than our own fleeting economy if all of the elements are not there. But Jocks owner John Dempsey knows exactly what it takes to make an average day or night out absolutely spectacular.
“There’s a little bit for everybody,” he said in a confident tone that only someone with nearly 30 years of experience in the food and beverage industry could possess. “I call it a very active sports bar and grill. If the [customers] are not shooting pool, they are playing the corn toss game, ping pong, darts in the back — the real darts — or NTN trivia. It’s very interactive and competitive.”
The spacious bar and grill features three pool tables, Wii games, Tee Golf, 18 televisions broadcasting sports of all kinds, from NFL and NCAA football and basketball to NHL, soccer, MLB and Nascar.
Every Saturday, Jocks hosts pool tournaments, and pool league takes place on Mondays and Tuesdays. It sponsors several successful outdoor club teams, including a men’s softball team, which just achieved tournament-champion status, two co-ed softball teams, a golf team and a little league team. As for football, Jocks sponsor a flag football team that plays twice a year and a regular football team, which recently won the championship for the third straight year in a row. “It’s very pedestrian…it’s comfortable for everybody,” said Dempsey. “[Customers] bring their young kids before it gets late in the evening…we have people here from eight to eighty years old, especially for sporting events. We have Nascar guys, a group of ladies watching tennis, guys watching golf…and everybody that plays golf out here gets their first draft for a dollar.”
So who decides on what games are on television? You do, said Dempsey, who is a Steelers fan himself.
“The majority rules here. I don’t want to pigeon hole the place and say that we are for exclusively one team. When there are more Patriots fans, they get surround sound and the biggest TV. The biggest crowd gets the biggest TV.”
There is entertainment all week long. Tommy Simms plays live every Wednesday night. Wii games, and trivia, which has become extremely popular, take place every Thursday. Currently, the trivia company is giving away a trip to the Bahamas and participants at bars around the country are all competing to win. But if quizzing isn’t your thing, try Karaoke, which takes place every Friday, and DJ Tanz make an appearance for “request night” every Saturday.
“Friday nights and Saturday nights…those are the two nights that kind of turn into an active, dance-like, young crowd,” said Dempsey. “But I am not trying to compete with the live entertainment [around town]. We are a sports bar and restaurant and I want to stay there…I don’t want to deviate to far from where we’ve positioned ourselves so far.”
The menu is pretty extensive and very modestly priced, with almost a dozen different types of burgers, including the bacon-drenched Carolina burger, the Pittsburgher, topped with French fries and coleslaw, and sliders. Lighter fare such as salads and wraps are available. Southwest Egg Rolls, cheese sticks, and potato skins are just a few of the many appetizers served, and eight types of wings are offered. Every item on the kids menu is priced under $5. Lots of specials going on too: on Mondays, the Rib-eye steak dinner is just $5 and on Fridays, a fish fry is just $6.95. Every Thursday, ladies get free appetizers from 5 to 7 p.m. “I keep everything $9.95 or less,” said Dempsey. ”It’s good food…comfort food.”
Dempsey certainly has his priorities straight. He is all about giving back to the community. “We raise money during Superbowl for the Boys and Girls club… and we are trying to plan our first golf tournament to raise money for the kids of fallen soldiers…That will probably be September or October.”
And he began his own company, Schubert Place, LLC, the company that owns Jocks, in early 2008 with a silent investor, his life-long friend who once worked as a bar back with him when he was a bartender thirty years ago in West Virginia. Before he opened Jocks, Dempsey worked for ten years as a food and beverage manager at Sea Pines, and before that, he worked for Hyatt on the island when he moved here in 1989. While working for Hyatt, he helped the company open up hotels in Aruba and Indianapolis.“It was a goal I set for myself ten years about twenty years ago. I said I wanted to own my own place before I was fifty years old and I did it.”
Bluffton’s Active Sports Bar and Grill
95 Baylor Dr # 117
Bluffton, SC 29910
Hours: Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Saturday through Sunday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.