Local bars prepare for 20th-annual Unofficial celebration


Hannah Auten

Local bars prepare days in advance for Unofficial.

By Maria Rubin De Celis

Ferrin casually leans over the countertop, socializing and reminiscing with friends about the familiar sea of green that floods Joe’s every year on Unofficial.

“Personally, I’m excited,” Ferrin said, competing with the sound of ESPN playing from several of the brightly lit TV screens sequenced throughout the bar. “It’s a big deal.”

Ferrin’s optimism about Unofficial comes with not only excitement but also with a large to-do list of preparations, since it’s one of the busiest days of the year for bars.

“We’ll have full staff starting at 11 a.m., a 21-year-old carder all day, a door guy running around, a manager on hand, three bartenders the whole time, so yeah, we’re expecting a solid crowd,” Ferrin said.

Ferrin, who has been manager at Joe’s for the past two years, is no stranger to working on Unofficial. This year will mark his sixth time experiencing the drinking holiday behind the scenes at the bar, and he’s already thinking of ways to prepare for it personally.

“I’ll stretch before work that day,” Ferrin said with a laugh.

Aside from personal preparation, Ferrin and the rest of his staff are making sure everything goes as smoothly as possible in the bar itself. This year, the bar is ordering aluminum pints of beer for efficiency and even avoiding simple traditions that became unexpected annoyances in years past.

“We’re not doing green beer this year because it dyed our taps green a little longer than we wanted them to,” Ferrin said.

According to Ferrin, Joe’s is excited for the influx of people this year, but is ready for the stricter climate that comes with the territory of a drinking holiday on campus.

Especially after Champaign County’s crackdown on laws regarding Unofficial in 2007, bars have to manage carefully what they do, what they serve and who they let in.

“Everything’s super strict now — no glass, no pitchers, no shots, less fun,” he said. “The cops like live here.”

This high alert extends to most bars throughout campus.

However, other bars are approaching the drinking holiday in a different way than Joe’s Brewery.

Eric Meyer, owner of Kam’s, said that the stricter atmosphere does not affect him and his staff much on Unofficial, contrary to popular belief.

Meyer, who has owned Kam’s since 1991, said though bars prepare in different ways for Unofficial, his bar does not do anything out of the ordinary during the holiday.

“There are specific provisions, but staff is just as aware as they usually are. They’re still trained to card people and do what they do,” Meyer said.

Meyer said that his bar typically has fewer problems on Unofficial because, according to him, the day mainly draws in alumni who are just looking to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

“It’s their homecoming in the spring,” Meyer said. “People are just out to have fun wearing their green.”

Just a little over a block away, Rob Mara, junior in ACES and bartender at Cly’s, said the awareness of Unofficial is high and business booms with people drinking all day.

An employee at Cly’s for the past one and a half years, Mara said his employer makes sure he prepares the staff for the hectic day.

“It’s the worst day ever, honestly,” Mara said half-jokingly. “It’s a pretty big holiday, so everyone’s kinda stressed going up to it.”

Though this stress is prevalent among staffers throughout Unofficial, for some like Ferrin, it is still an unforgettable experience each year.

According to him, the added busyness and business of tradition will remain one of his favorite times of the year.

“It’s Unofficial. It’s a wonderful time, and I’m excited.”

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