Salem women’s sports bar Icarus Wings and Things to close:

Icarus Wings and Things will close a year after the downtown Salem women’s sports bar opened, the owners have announced.

There’s nothing wrong with a bar dedicated to women’s sports, which is different than a “women’s sports bar.” Which is Icarus? Unclear, and that’s a major marketing problem. Are guys welcome? Well, they better be because they constitute the bulk of sports fans, and I have no idea what’s the case for Icarus. I really enjoy women’s soccer, but I wouldn’t go to Icarus to see it simply because I don’t know if it’s a welcome space for guys. 

Co-owner Kelli Gilliland hopes the turnout will be a great, big “last hurrah” for the gluten-free chicken wing restaurant and bar that is the first of its kind in Salem. The venture also serves fried mushrooms, Southern-inspired side dishes and sandwiches.

I would suggest that cuisine is also an issue here. “Gluten-free” is not what you necessarily want to tout as a sports bar, especially one where you’re already isolating yourself by ignoring men’s sports. I would argue you should pick one differentiator be it women’s sports or specialty cuisine both not both. 

“I hate calling (Icarus) a failure even when we’re closing,” Gilliland said. She said she felt the restaurant and bar being in Salem brought women’s sports more into the conversation and “got folks exposed to the inequities in men and women’s sports and provided a safe place to watch games.”

I have no problem calling it a failure. That’s simply the reality of the business world. 

Further, I’m not sure what “the conversation” is. I assume it’s another way of saying the bar helped increase the popularity of women’s sports, though there’s probably no way to prove that. Surely, it didn’t hurt. 

I’m skeptical about the notion of sports “inequalities.” Sports are a form of entertainment, and like other entertainers the ultimate currency is how many people you can get to buy your product. Men’s sports simply draw more spectators than women’s sports. That means male athletes typically make more money than women athletes, usually much more. I have yet to figure out why I or anyone else should be concerned about this. 

Finally, I don’t know what a safe place to watch games means, unless Icarus was in fact a women’s-only sports bar and a “safe place” just means women can get away from men. I don’t have an issue with such a space, but it clearly wasn’t a sufficient attractant for enough women generally.