This day in history: Kamerer’s Annex, now KAMS, opens

By Megan Krok, Staff Writer

Champaign bar KAMS celebrated its 90th anniversary on Friday. Throughout its history, KAMS has undergone drastic changes, but the bar has always remained a popular hub for students.

Now called the “home of the drinking Illini,” KAMS wasn’t always a bar. KAMS started as a couple of family-owned drug stores.

According to Tim Norris, KAMS director of marketing, in the 1920s, the Kamerer family owned two drug stores in the Champaign-Urbana area. Not only did the store provide pharmaceuticals, but it also served food that was popular among students.

Following the success of the drug stores, the family expanded to open Kamerer’s Annex on Feb. 10, 1933. Advertised as “Another Good Place to Eat,” the Annex continued to serve the same food as the other stores but at a different location. Dining options, particularly dining halls, were limited for students at this time, but the Annex provided convenient meals for students on campus.

Students eventually nicknamed the Annex “KAMS.” Decades later, the nickname remains.

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    An ad featured in an edition of The Daily Illini from 1933 advertised the opening of Kamerer Bros, now known as KAMS. (The Daily Illini Photo File)

    After KAMS survived the Prohibition that ended in December 1933, it eventually became known as a “great place” to get a chicken dinner and beer.

    KAMS even fed soldiers from the now-decommissioned Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul during WWII, according to Norris.

    In the 1950s, KAMS began selling pizza and continued to grow as a social spot on campus. The spot continued to evolve into what it is today.

    “Its consistency is that it has always been a great place for people to gather and eat,” Norris said.

    In 1970, KAMS’s location was replaced by the bar Dooley’s. KAMS would reappear in 1975 when Jack Kamerer, the son of original owner Martin Kamerer, decided to reopen the place.

    KAMS reopened in September 1975 on Daniel Street. The bar would remain at this location until the building was sold in 2018 to Scott Cochrane and closed its doors on Oct. 20, 2019.

    In 2020, KAMS reopened at a new location on Green Street, where it has stayed since then, serving “blue guys” and good times.

    “The new building is a nod to its history,” Norris said. “Having 90 years, it’s a very important place, especially to alumni, and it’s a very special place. We’re always looking for ways to improve and grow.”

    Although KAMS opened on Feb. 10, 1933, the bar hosted its anniversary celebration on Feb. 11.

    Bargoers received a commemorative anniversary pint glass, had the opportunity to be entered into a raffle and got photographed to be a part of a 90th-anniversary photo collage that will be placed in the bar.

     

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