Kent Browns Backers move into Water Street Tavern


The Browns Backers, a local non-profit organization centered around the Browns franchise, open up the NFL season at Water Street Tavern on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015

Dan Armelli

The Kent Browns Backers gathered in its new location at Water Street Tavern Sunday afternoon to watch the Cleveland Browns take on the New York Jets.

While the Browns lost, the first day at its new location was a great success, says KBB’s President Mike Hutsler.

“It looks like the experiment is turning out very well for all parties concerned,” Hutsler said. “How the next several weeks and the season plays out will determine our ultimate outcome.”

Former Cleveland Brown and Kent State alum Josh Cribbs came out to Water Street to cheer on the Browns.

“The Kent Browns Backers are very familiar with Josh Cribbs,” Hutsler said.

When Kent State retired Cribbs’s jersey in 2010, the Browns Backers were there to watch.

“He met an awful lot of us then,” Hutsler said. “He remembered me when I saw him today. It’s nice to reacquaintance ourselves with him. He said he’s very happy to see that the Kent Browns Backers are in attendance downtown.”

The Kent Browns Backers started in 1999 when the Browns returned to Cleveland after leaving for Baltimore in 1996. They are the 80th chapter of the Browns Backers club. 

Hutsler said he and a group of friends applied for and were awarded a chapter.

“We went to Mike’s Place in Kent, Ohio and we existed there for a long time,” Hutsler said. “Last year, on a mutual agreement we agreed to leave Mike’s Place because his restaurant business had expanded so much that we were taking up seats that he needed for his restaurant people.”

Hutsler and his chapter then moved to Eldorado’s Pizza Pie in downtown Kent, not losing any members during the transition.

With the members of the Kent Browns Backers filling Eldorado’s to capacity, club Vice President Marty Beyner’s son, a Kent State student, came to Hutsler with a suggestion.

“[He] approached me about the time of the Super Bowl and said, ‘You know, we should think about doing something downtown for the Kent State kids.’ And I said ‘That’s a great idea. What do you got in mind?’ He goes ‘Well, Water Street Tavern is really cool.’”

From there, the wheels began to spin in motion for the expansion of the KBB into Water Street Tavern.

Hutsler joked that joining the Kent Browns Backers is a “crippling” $10 a year. In addition to the camaraderie, he noted other perks of becoming a member.

“At both locations, there are specials for Browns Backers members,” Hutsler said. “Beyond that, we have several special activities we have planned during the year. We’ve had bus trips in the past to (First Energy Stadium) for Browns games. We’ve had golf outings. We actually have a bus trip coming up this year.” 

Beyond the perks, the Kent Browns Backers give back too.

“We donate money to the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research,” Hutsler said. “Today we’re donating money to the Cleveland Browns Foundation, which is a children’s fund. We donate to the Portage County Foster Care; sponsor them for their Christmas party every year for homeless children. We donate to Freedom House, which is a shelter house for homeless military vets.”

Hutsler said what is so special about being a chapter of the Browns Backers is how national of an organization it has become.

“Browns Backers are everywhere,” Hutsler said. “I’ve been to Honolulu. I’ve been to Maui. I’ve been to Cancun, Florida, Virginia, Savannah. There’s a Browns Backers bar in any town of any size. You walk in and say ‘Hey, I belong to the Browns Backers,’ someone there knows you.”

Contact Dan Armelli at at[email protected].