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Roof-top bleacher seating in demand for Classic

by Dan Rosen /
CHICAGO -- James Murphy is thinking about the challenge he will face in a few days, a challenge the co-owner of Murphy's Bleachers on the corner of Waveland and Sheffield avenues never figured would arise.
"New Year's Eve is usually a big night for us, so it will be interesting turning that around to New Year's Day," Murphy told on Monday afternoon. "Staffing is a bit of a challenge with having people be here potentially until 3 or 4 in the morning cleaning up and then having people back here for 8 a.m. to open. It's a challenge."
The challenge arose because the NHL is transforming Wrigleyville, normally a sleepy North Side neighborhood in the dead of winter, into the place to be Thursday morning.
The Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic '09 has been the talk of the town here for quite some time now, and Murphy's Bleachers should be one of the hot spots on when it finally arrives.
"Normally it's a little bit more laid back as people come in to watch football, but we don't normally have people here at 8 a.m. on Jan. 1," Murphy said. "That's when our staff will get here. The doors will open as soon as they can get things ready to go.
"I have gotten a lot of calls from people asking what time we'll be open."

Murphy's Bleachers is situated beyond the right-center field bleachers with its front door opening up to Sheffield Avenue. Murphy, whose family took ownership of the bar in 1980, said they didn't start selling their rooftop bleacher seats until this month because they weren't sure of the view.

He said there was concern that one of the video scoreboards could make the view obstructed, but it turns out the view of the hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings will be just like it is for a regular Cubs game.

"We didn't want to sell something until we knew what it was," Murphy said. "Our view looks fantastic."

Murphy said they sell the bleacher seats to private parties, and not individuals, but the price for a ticket for a roof-top seat for the Winter Classic worked out to be $250, but that includes food and beverages, not to mention a view of the historic game on New Year's Day.

"We had tons of people asking about the rooftop right away," Murphy said. "We didn't book it right away because we didn't know what our view was going to be, but within that first week (after the announcement the game was coming to Wrigley Field) we could have booked it 10 times over if we wanted to."

The beauty is that although this is a unique, wintertime event, Murphy's plans to treat it as a normal Cubs game. Murphy, in fact, said his business on Thursday probably won't match what it does for a Cubs game.

"I'm not sure how many people are going to want to be outside and we won't have our sidewalk cafe," he said.

However, Murphy's does have a patio just outside the door that leads to the steps for the rooftops and a worker was clearing ice away there on Monday afternoon. Murphy also brought in standing heaters and plans to have people out there before, during and after the game.

"We're ordering some extra coffee and we'll be making extra Bloody Marys for sure," Murphy said. "People like our Bloody Marys."

"We're ordering some extra coffee and we'll be making extra Bloody Marys for sure. People like our Bloody Marys."
-- James Murphy, co-owner of Murphy's Bleachers

Murphy himself is a North Sider who lives in Wrigleyville. In fact, he lives right above the bar. He said he has been monitoring the Winter Classic build-up since the beginning by walking past the activity around Wrigley Field each day.

On Monday, his curiosity finally took him onto the rooftop so he could see the ice.

"Almost every day I have been walking by it, trying to take a look," Murphy said. "It's cool to have a wintertime event at Wrigley Field. It never happened in my lifetime. I know they had the Bears playing there and I have seen they had the ski jump in there, but this is unique and really cool. There is a buzz in the neighborhood."

Wait until Thursday.

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