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Deep in Ravens country, Baltimore's Patriots and Eagles bars prep for big Super Bowl crowds — and even bigger win

Patriots & Eagles fans can cheer on their favorite team during the Super Bowl at a local bar surrounded by other like-minded patrons. (Kenneth K. Lam & Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun video)

The buzz in Baltimore around Sunday’s Super Bowl isn’t close to what it would be if the Ravens were competing for football’s ultimate prize.

That is, unless you’re at MaGerk’s Pub or Dogwatch Tavern — enclaves within the city for fans of the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. Here, it’s been an extended holiday since their teams won their conference championships two weeks ago.

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“The energy, you just can’t beat it. We all get caught up in it,” said Sarah Clark, general manager of MaGerk’s, a Philadelphia-themed bar in Federal Hill. “It’s reached a fever pitch this year.”

In a region mostly dedicated to the Ravens, many transplants have made these bars another home away from home. Like the fans, the establishments have been counting down the days until kickoff, while making extra preparations for what will likely be one of their busiest Sundays of 2018.

At MaGerk’s and Dogwatch Tavern, the Fells Point bar where a local Patriots fan club meets, being ready for the Super Bowl rush means extra bartenders, servers and security — things not often required on a Sunday night.

Karin Acquarulo is a bartender at MaGerk's Pub & Grill in Federal Hill, which is a hot spot for Philadelphia Eagles fans.
Karin Acquarulo is a bartender at MaGerk's Pub & Grill in Federal Hill, which is a hot spot for Philadelphia Eagles fans. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

The security is mainly to ensure that the bars remain mindful of fire codes and don’t go over capacity, management said. Both bars are accepting fans on a first-come, first-served basis without a cover charge.

“We can’t take reservations because it’s going to be standing-room only,” said Marka Browning, a “diehard” Patriots fan and owner of Dogwatch Tavern.

“Our fans have been so loyal and good to us through the years, and that’s who we want here,” Clark said.

Of course, security will step in to quell rambunctious fans if needed. MaGerk’s wants to make sure “people aren’t excitedly running into the street, spraying beer bottles,” Clark said with a laugh.

After Philadelphia’s win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game, the wall-to-wall crowd at MaGerk’s spent the rest of the night clapping, high-fiving and singing the Eagles’ fight song in unison. The bar sold nearly 1,600 cheesesteaks that day, Clark said.

“The building was shaking,” she said. “Everyone was so excited in here.”

Rallying behind a single team has always been about more than football for many. Fans like Brandon Leibowitz of the Charm City Eagles Nest group and Kevin Kacin of Baltimore Patriots Fans cherish the camaraderie. At these bars, strangers quickly become friends — especially when they learn they have more in common than just a favorite team.

“I’ve met people who grew up in my hometown, which was shocking,” said Kacin, from Trumbull, Conn. “When people walk into Dogwatch and see other people there wearing the gear, it almost feels like an oasis. There’s almost a familial feel right away.”

Allen Barron, from left, Marka Browning, owner of DogWatch Tavern, and Kevin Kacin, founder of the Baltimore Patriots Fans club, hang out at the bar's "Patriots deck," which is decorated with Patriots memorabilia donated by fans who watch games there.
Allen Barron, from left, Marka Browning, owner of DogWatch Tavern, and Kevin Kacin, founder of the Baltimore Patriots Fans club, hang out at the bar's "Patriots deck," which is decorated with Patriots memorabilia donated by fans who watch games there. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

While the Patriots club — which is recognized by the team’s website, and has donated nearly $5,000 to Baltimore charities — has brought hundreds of fans together at Dogwatch, the Eagles club is still building its presence beyond its Facebook group, Leibowitz said. Physical meet-ups are a work in progress, yet most Eagles fans here know to head to MaGerk’s or Southern Provisions, a bar in Canton that also identifies as Eagles-friendly, he said.

“Philly is only an hour-and-a-half away, so there’s a lot of us around here and it’s pretty easy to get support,” Leibowitz said. “Anxious fans, ready to win a Super Bowl — everybody knows how to have a good time. It’s just in the air.”

This Super Bowl is a game of contrasts: The Patriots’ star quarterback versus the Eagles’ backup; New England’s stoic coach head-to-head with Philadelphia’s greener, more affable leader; and a team where winning is expected against a team starved for its first Lombardi trophy.

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The bar managers and fans seem to share at least one quality, though: the belief that this is their team’s year.

“We’re all super-excited,” Clark said. “I ordered some extra champagne, optimistically.”

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