Dana Point has a nice surprise for all Carolina Panthers fans in Orange County: their own team bar. Starting with this season's opener on Thursday, when Carolina takes on the Denver Ponies, Stillwater Spirits and Sounds in Dana Point will become Ground Zero for all local fans of the NFC champs.
Owner Damian Collins says the decision to host fans was easy. For starters, more fans showed up for the Panthers games than any other team. "It seems like there is a large contingent of people, like we learned last year in the playoffs, that absolutely love the Panthers," he said. "And their big thing was, there is nowhere that is specific for them. We have a lot of people from the South and they really have nowhere to go other than their house to watch the game, cook the food and do everything."
To ensure teams fans will enjoy the full experience, Collins is bringing in dishes and beers significant to the Carolinas like frog legs gumbo, shrimp and grits, Frogmore stew, boiled peanuts and Beaufort stew. In addition, the staff's new uniform includes team jerseys and accessories to compliment the bar's plethora of Panther decorations, as well as the sound up on all Carolina games. Collins is also reaching out to local retired Panther players, in hopes they will come in during games to do signings, offer commentary, and give feedback as an extra incentive to draw in more Carolina supporters. Collins is actually a die-hard Oakland Raiders fan, and though he won't truly be rooting for the Panthers, "I'm a businessman first, a fan second."
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"I feel excited and pumped that there is finally a Panther bar here in Orange County," said Carolina fan Robert Keys. "Of course I have DirectTV, but it's nice to know that I can go somewhere local and watch the live game with sound on the main TV with other fans instead of the bartender putting it on in the back corner of the place. It's gonna be great!"
Offering 52 beers on tap, a wide selection of craft cocktails, indoor and outdoor full-service bars and 20 beautiful flat-screen TVs, Collins is confident Stillwater has more to offer than other options to go for NFL games. Despite being a Oaklad Raiders fan, he plans to continue the Panther theme throughout this season and beyond. "As long as the Panther fans show up," he said, "this will always be a Panther bar."
Stillwater Spirits and Sounds, 24701 Del Prado Ave., Dana Point, (949) 661-6003.