As dusk settles, around 7 p.m. and motorcycles begin arriving, Kristopher’s Sports Bar & Grill owner Robert Stringer will most likely take the microphone, together with his Dj Kristi Swanson, and start the weekly “Bike Night/Patio Party” proceedings.
This Wednesday night staple, of more than a dozen years, will go on until 11 p.m. as the best motorcycle prize is given out, the regulars (and some new ones) will come motoring in and out, and riders and customers, alike, will gaze at the beauty of the bikes under the often waning warm sun, listening to Southern and hard rock, country music and, occasionally, a requested rap song.
“When something you love can make money and you can give to a charity, it’s a win-win situation.”
This is a chance for riders to meet, schmooze, eat and find a safe environment to even bring their families to. It has also brought in a broader spectrum of people. “Families come…kids walk around (to see all the bikes) and can (even) sit on my motorcycle,” says Robby, as he is called. Before his children went to college, they and his wife would often join him on this night.
For those customers not arriving on motorcycles, Robby sees this as a chance to allow these two communities to mingle and for some of the perceptions about motorcyclists to hopefully meld away. (Those not into the festivities can choose an inside table within easy view of the 52 TV screens including four video wall pieces – mostly focused on some aspect of sports.)
“We started this (event) when Harley Davidson took off” with their expensive bikes, says Robbie. “This brought in urban professionals and businessmen, guys who’ve been riding since they were young.” Riders range from their late 20s to 70s; in recent years, there has been an uptick in female riders, as well.
Behind it all will be Robby’s firm hand keeping the event under check - he’s often found in the front parking lot providing gentle guidance for redirecting gang members wearing colors (they are always welcome, but not wearing their “club colors”). “Other bars allowed bike clubs and gangs, which I’m not against, but it intimidates your everyday customers and other bikers,” says Robby. “We did not want conflicts between (anyone).”
It is his determination that charitable organizations be represented often (Phoenix Inked, Hometown Heroes, American Cancer Society, to name a few) and allowed to sell items, take donations and publicize upcoming events. “When something you love can make money and you can give to a charity, it’s a win-win situation,” says Robby.
He’ll also court local businesses (often motorcycle and automobile-related) to be represented by banners and their employees’ presence.
To date, Robby has had no problems with either noise issues or riders leaving the sports bar. “Matthews is a tight-knit community,” he says, adding that he’s proud of the reputation he’s built up.
On Halloween night, which is the end of their season, riders and their bikes will come decked out in their finest costumes; the restaurant and its employees will be decked out as will Robby. And, as Bike Night ends until next April, he can reflect on this current season and his next one with pride. “It’s as good as it can be – this makes the restaurant money. Bonding (my love of) motorcycles with my business is as good as it gets.”