NEW YORK — A bartender hoisted a 12th Man flag on Thursday night outside Carlow East on the Upper East Side but it wasn’t necessary to identify the bar as Seahawks friendly.
Inside, dozens of Seahawks fans were already chanting, drinking and listening to grunge music, whooping it up days before their team plays the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Walking through the doors felt like stepping out of New York and into Seattle.
“It feels like I’m in Pioneer Square,” said Edson Gaylord, who works with the ticket retailer Epic Seats. The Seattle resident was in New York on business, and plans to head back to the real Seattle and watch the game with the same group of people he’s watched with for the last 20 years.
“The Hawks have kept us very busy,” he said of his company.
And they have kept Carlow East busy, too.
Sean Spratt has owned the bar for 14 years, and half of that time it has been filled with Seattle transplants and Seahawks fans from all over the country and beyond.
About seven years ago, Spratt said a group of about 10 or 15 guys were looking for a place to watch the Seahawks play so he invited them in.
“I said ‘We’ll let you have the sound (up on the TV),’ ” Spratt said. “It just grew from there.”
Most of the patrons in the bar are Seattle natives; Spratt guesses about 80 percent.
The rest vary. One man lives in Pennsylvania and drives to Carlow East every Sunday all season long to watch the games.
“The experience is like no other,” Spratt said. “(Visitors) say there is nothing like it.”
The die-hard regulars don’t have to worry about getting a seat in the bar on Sunday. Spratt said he is closing the place to the public, and about 120 people can buy tickets to the bar’s private Super Bowl party.
That ensures the longtime patrons can keep up the tradition, he said.
Having a Seahawks bar in the middle of New York City has its challenges.
Local Giants and Jets fans complained in the beginning, and since Carlow East exploded in popularity copycats have sprung up around the city.
“But they know now,” Spratt said. “This was the Seahawks bar.”
Word spread to the West Coast.
On Blue Friday, the Space Needle’s signed 12th Man flag, the SeaGals and Blue Thunder all showed up at Carlow East to pump up the already amped crowd.
Sonja Pouliot of Lakewood was among the fanatics at Carlow East on Thursday. She said fans from Vancouver, B.C., to Connecticut were yelling “SEA-HAWKS!” all night long.
Fabio Mentasti, a computer engineer from Italy, likely traveled the longest distance to watch the Super Bowl. He wore his No. 8 Matt Hasselbeck Seahawks jersey and joined in the fun. He said the Seahawks defense will keep the Broncos out of the end zone on Sunday.
Pha Mom and her boyfriend Param Singh have, in a way, delayed their engagement to be at the Super Bowl.
“I said ‘Forget the ring, take me to the Super Bowl,’ ” Mom said. She’s been a season-ticket holder since 2006, before meeting Singh. The Puyallup residents have walked all over New York City holding their full-size 12th Man flag.
Amber and Scott Morrison of Bellingham also opted to incorporate the Super Bowl into a couple’s retreat. The two celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary the night of the NFC Championship Game.
After the Seahawks defeated the 49ers, Amber Morrison suggested extending the celebration.
“It’s so uncharacteristic of us,” she said of the spontaneous trip to New York. “It feels good.”
The Morrisons heard about Carlow East from many people, both in New York and back home. After getting turned around on the unfamiliar subway system, they let out a sigh of relief when they arrived.
“It feels like home,” Amber Morrison said.