It’s noon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where the Kansas City Chiefs are set to play the New York Jets, but in Los Angeles, California, it is only 9 a.m.
Chris Wedding pulls up to “Jalapeño Pete’s” on Ventura Boulevard in sunny Studio City. He is wearing a vintage Jamaal Charles jersey that has seen its better days and a red baseball cap with a yellow Arrowhead and white palm trees on its front panel.
Wedding tells me that the logo has become so popular, current Chiefs players with California ties such as Rakeem Nunez-Roches and De’Anthony Thomas have put in requests.
Jalapeno Pete’s is a new wrinkle to Wedding’s creation, “Chiefs LA,” but he has been on this journey with his best friend, Jonathan Dillon, since the 2011 season.
Wedding, who is originally from Lee’s Summit, and Dillon, originally from Overland Park, first moved out to Los Angeles in 2003, meeting under what they would now call amusing circumstances.
“The funny part is way, way, way back in the day, we both dated the same girl in Kansas City,” Wedding said.
“Different times, different times,” Dillon quickly added.
“When we both moved out here, she was like, ‘You guys should hang out,’ so we hung out and became best friends,” Wedding said.
In the early years of their friendship, Wedding and Dillon would watch Chiefs games at a bar called “The Whaler” located in Venice, California, but when New York Jets fans suddenly decided to rent the place out, the duo began visiting opposing team bars each Sunday instead.
“Back then, the Chiefs, we were good, but we weren’t great,” Wedding laughed. “Tyler Thigpen was around. There were a lot of walks of shame out of some bars, but finally, Dillon and I were like it’s time for us to start our own Chiefs bar, so we looked around for a bar that was between us in Los Angeles, we found a home, and we started Chiefs LA.”
The original home was a bar called the Rec Room, and about 10 fans would consistently show up each week. Once Wedding and Dillon became more active with Chiefs LA on Facebook and the team improved in 2013, the fan group blew up.
“Once we hit Facebook and people could Google ‘Chiefs bar Los Angeles,’ and find us, it just got huge,” Wedding said. “We really maxed out last year during the playoffs. We had 300-plus people show up to the bar, and finally, we had to turn people away, and that was a big turning point for us.”
When the Rams and Chargers moved to Los Angeles, Wedding and Dillon drew similar crowds to pregame tailgates in the area. Having one guaranteed Chiefs game in Los Angeles has also changed things in a good way for Chiefs LA.
“Now that we have the Los Angeles Chargers and we play them once a year, it’s going to be that tailgate,” Wedding said. “What was amazing to us was how many people showed up and contributed. We had people bring grills, corn hole, people bringing their popups and food. Everybody contributed and it just became this big, fun 300-plus picnic, and I don’t think necessarily you get that in Kansas City.”
Everyone has their own private party at Arrowhead Stadium, Wedding explained, but in Los Angeles, the once-a-year novelty brings all the Californian Chiefs fans together.
“Everybody just wants to be a part of that community out here,” he said.
And that was part of the reason the Chiefs LA headquarters is now located at Jalapeño Pete’s. The venue is bigger and the ownership has bought in.
And at the new place, Wedding and Dillon continue to do what they have always done—build Chiefs LA traditions.
When a Chiefs fan walks in the door, everyone in the restaurant screams, “Chiefs,” in unison. Wedding tells jokes at the beginning of the game, and Dillon and his girlfriend run a raffle with authentic Chiefs gear as prizes. At halftime, everyone gets a free red shot.
The Jalepeño Pete’s chefs have created a breakfast menu (remember, games typically start in the mid-morning) with items that go well with Jack Stack and Zarda barbecue sauce, which are available at the door. They Chop, they chant and they cheer.
For three hours a week, Kansas City transplants don’t feel like they’re in California. They feel like they are back in the Midwest.
“It’s home,” Jacoby Mosby, a KC native who attends nearly every week, said. “It’s home away from home.”