The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Anthem creates space for queer CU nightlife

Anthem+Bar+in+Champaign+on+Neil+Street+is+peacefully+illuminated+from+the+light+outside+during+a+cold+day+on+Sunday.
Emma Pyatt
Anthem Bar in Champaign on Neil Street is peacefully illuminated from the light outside during a cold day on Sunday.

For the first time since 2017, Champaign welcomed Anthem, a new LGBTQ+ bar, to the city’s variety of nightlife opportunities in November.

The permanent closure of Champaign’s one and only queer nightclub in 2017, Chester Street Bar, took away a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. After nearly 40 years of business, many members of the queer community in Champaign suffered the loss of their beloved watering hole.

Affectionately nicknamed “C-Street” by its regular attendees, the bar was founded in 1978 originally under the name “theBar.” The original name became a code word for queer people, particularly gay men, to identify and rendezvous together, according to the C-Street website.

A transfer of ownership in 1985 resulted in its renaming, but the club maintained its status as “the premiere nightlife destination for LGBTQ residents and visitors, as well as University of Illinois students,” according to its website.

Located at 320 N. Neil St., Anthem’s management said they are excited to reintroduce an inclusive space to Champaign. 

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    “We really want to be a place of safe harbor,” said Michael Maggi, director of sales at CRS Hospitality, the company that owns Anthem.

    Reigniting an inclusive nightlife scene in Champaign has brought many longtime queer residents a new sense of excitement and a return to the city’s queer community.

    “The last time I worked in a bar was probably C-Street,” said bar manager Cameron Hurley. “Losing all that was really devastating, so Michael giving me the opportunity to lead with him has been really wonderful.”

    Both Hurley and Maggi spoke to the importance of queer spaces when they came out. The significance of these settings and LGBTQ+ venues can create a much-needed support system for young queer people as they openly explore their identities.

    “My proposal was to turn it into an LGBTQ+ space for the community,” Maggi said. “To fill a gap that has been in our community for a long time.”

    Anthem is one of the few places in downtown Champaign with an age minimum of 19 years.

    “We wanted to make sure that we were available to as much of our community as we could,” Maggi said. “When I came out it was important to me to have that space at a young age.”

    Maggi said he is dedicated to creating a unique and specialized experience for people of all ages and personal identities.

    “Our community is beautiful and large, but it’s not large enough to support isolated businesses,” Maggi said. “I think the more businesses we have that are LGBTQ+, the better we all are, and we want more and more to pop up and populate our community.” 

    Beyond their full-service bar and inclusivity, the minds behind Anthem are looking to expand their reach beyond just entertainment.

    “We really want to be an active member of contributing as much as we are receiving,” Maggi said. “We want to be cognizant of the product we are producing so that we are positively impacting the downtown community.”

    Anthem also offers a nonalcoholic beverage menu in continued efforts to amplify inclusivity for guests.

    Plans for programming are full steam ahead, according to organizers. Weekly staple events are being integrated into their calendar, such as Cabaret Sundays and live performances on Wednesdays. 

    “Cabaret Sundays are going to be a really cool, unique sector of drag,” Maggi said. “We’ll have a highlight on one performer for just a couple of hours doing a few numbers and integrating with the audience.”

    Anthem also offers seasonal and themed menus, catering to many sects of pop culture. 

    “Our next theme is coming out in conjunction with the Oscars,” Maggi said. “It’ll be a big weekend event of our Gold Party, our Oscars drag show and the Oscars party as well.”

    Hurley relayed that the turnout of Anthem’s New Year’s party was incredible. 

    “I really felt the energy and the joy of the whole night,” Hurley said. “It really set the tone for what we want to do with the rest of the year.”

    The management team at Anthem said they have many events in store for the new year. They conduct the majority of advertising through their Facebook page, where interested community members can stay up to date.

    “Anthem isn’t just a bar,” Maggi said. “It’s not just a lounge or a dance club. It is a sense of community.”


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