Sunday, December 10, 2023

Two friends opened a community bar. One happens to be a football player for the New York Giants

District 41 Sports Bar opened in Dec 2018. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano)
District 41 Sports Bar opened in Dec 2018. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano)

NEWPORT NEWS — Robert “Free” Freeman and his best friend, Antoine Bethea decided to open a hangout spot where people from the community can relax and unwind.

“We just wanted to have a place we can come to,” Freeman said, adding they didn’t want to open a club or a restaurant.

Freeman, who does marketing and promotions for the business, went to Denbigh High School with Bethea, a safety for the New York Giants.

“He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime,” Freeman said. “I have always done his football events.”

Freeman also helps Bethea run a nonprofit he co-founded called Shut Down 757, a youth organization providing football and cheer camps for children ages 6 to 13.

The bar got its name from the Peninsula District and Bethea’s sports jersey — No. 41.

Bethea was unavailable for comment because of his football schedule.

The spot showcases athletes from Hampton Roads or the 757 area with sports jerseys decorated on the walls and other memorabilia from figures like Bethea, Allen Iverson, Michael Vick and Tyrod Taylor, which Freeman noted were brought and signed at District 41.

“These people actually came here and brought jerseys and signed them,” he said, adding they frequent joint, too.

The establishment is described as an affordable upscale sports bar “for your everyday sports fan by day and your superior socialites by night” with two full bars and 24 local beers on tap.

Clientele is diverse with the work crowd from employers like Jefferson Lab by day and “everybody” by night, and the bar offers deals and discounts from tequila and taco nights to bottomless boneless wings and an extended happy hour til 8 p.m.

While District 41 is a bar, Freeman said they prioritize good food, with handmade sauces, catering service and takeout options.

“Anyone can go anywhere for a drink but we specialize in food,” he said.

Plans for the business is to be more active in the community and Freeman said they plan on hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless in a couple weeks with food trucks.

“Anything we can do in the community so the community knows somebody supports them,” Freeman said.

District 41 Sports Bar, 605 Pilot House Drive, is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Friday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

For more information, visit their website or you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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