Where do you go when the usual place you go for coping is a 20,000-square-foot reminder of the very subject you’re trying to cope with?

For Ari Strauss, the answer is walking the floor of Sluggers World Class Sports Bar, right where he's always gone to heal. Right where his father told him to spend as much time as possible.

Located a high flyball down Clark Street from Wrigley Field, “Sluggers”, as it’s affectionately known, has been the epicenter of celebrating Chicago sports moments and a staple of the Chicago Cubs gameday experience for millions of baseball fans since Ari’s dad, Steve Strauss, first opened the bar in 1985. 

Ari’s first memories of Sluggers are of running around the bar’s famous game room as a young kid, getting rolls of quarters from Steve Mitchell (who still works there, 30+ years later) so he could play arcade games and hit in the batting cages for free. 

“It was the coolest thing ever; any 8-year-old would love that,” Ari chuckles. 

Steve Strauss with Sluggers’ original dueling piano players sitting on a counter
Steve Strauss with Sluggers’ original dueling piano players.

Other particularly fond Sluggers memories for Ari include the first stretch of three consecutive NBA championships won by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, the Chicago Blackhawks winning three Stanley Cup championships in the 2010s, the Chicago Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought in 2016, and dozens of St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas bar crawls – even if the details on some of those are a little blurry. 

But out of the countless days Ari has spent at the family business he’s co-owned with his two brothers for the last 19 years, Friday, January 28, 2022, stands out vividly. That’s the day he woke up to a call from his mom, letting him know that his dad had died suddenly at the age of 76. 

In shock, but out of habit, Ari hung up and went to Sluggers. His dad’s bar. The family business for nearly 40 years. A place full of memories made with his dad, where the walls are adorned with not just iconic Chicago sports pictures and memorabilia, but also pictures of his dad that serve as a constant reminder of what he built. Ari spent hours there hugging it out with family members, staff, and bar regulars who were there that day. 

The three Strauss brothers with Charlie Minoso posing at Sluggers bar
The three Strauss brothers with Charlie Minoso, son of baseball legend and close friend of Steve Strauss, Minnie Minoso.

“That was Day 1 of the rest of my life without him, and that sucked,” Ari says. “That was a hard one, but for my whole life, coming to this place has been a way for me to cope with things.” 

Steve semi-retired from running the bar in 2005 but could often be found roaming it until his death. Nothing made him happier than interacting with as many patrons as possible, making sure they’d remember Sluggers for its top-notch hospitality, not just the upstairs game room. 

"It’s hard not to love, admire, and respect the man,” Ari recalls proudly. “My dad was salt of the earth and good to everyone: whoever they are, wherever they are from, whatever they are into, and whatever they look like.”

Steve wanted everyone to feel welcome, and two and a half years after his passing, not much has changed around Sluggers: at almost all times, at least one of the Strauss men can be found walking around the bar, chatting with guests. 

Ari Strauss with Sluggers bartenders standing behind the bar
Ari Strauss with Sluggers bartenders.

“The biggest advice my dad ever gave me was to walk around the bar and say hello to people,” Ari says. “I can hear that in my head to this day. It’s the backbone of who we are.”

The Cubs have a home game on Father’s Day this Sunday against the rival St. Louis Cardinals. It’s one of the biggest weekends of the baseball season in Wrigleyville. Ari will be honoring his dad by doing exactly what he told him to do: spending time at the bar and interacting with as many people as possible. 

“We’ll think about him on Sunday, but he wouldn’t want us to be doing anything else besides being here working our a**es off,” Ari says. “And we have no problem with that.”

After all, there’s no better place for Ari to feel close to his dad than at Sluggers. 

SpotOn is proud to be the restaurant point-of-sale tech partner for Sluggers and help Ari and his brothers carry on the family business.

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