Party Trolley becomes a campus attraction



By Michael Logli

Every Thursday through Saturday night from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. a greenish-brown, brightly lit trolley car makes a round trip across Green Street.

Coming from 88 Broadway at Urbana’s Lincoln Square Mall, the trolley travels to Joe’s Brewery in Champaign every half-hour to pick up patrons and transport them between the two bars.

Those on the trolley often dance on the poles inside or shout out to the streets, encouraging others to get on the next ride. But Marjaneh Ghasemi, junior in LAS, said she had no idea what the trolley was when she saw it two weeks ago.

“I thought it was really silly,” Ghasemi said.

The trolley belongs to Doug Larson, owner of 88 Broadway and Joe’s Brewery, and he purchased it from a Philadelphia touring company. The original purpose was to help patrons safely commute between the two locations, but it has become a business booster.

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“It’s helped bring people who don’t have a way to get here,” Larson said.

What was originally a publicity stunt has become one of many other popular attractions to 88 Broadway, said Luke Henry, general manager of 88 Broadway and Larson’s partner at the restaurant.

The party trolley not only increases flow to the bar, but also helps Joe’s as well. The trolley offers an extra service; patrons who pay cover at Joe’s and get their hand stamped there will not need to pay cover at 88 Broadway if they take the trip. However, paying cover at 88 Broadway does not waive the cover charge at Joe’s.

The trolley can also take large groups or parties back and forth between the locations if reservations are made ahead of time.

“We are a restaurant, but we are also a bar,” Henry said.

Larson said he believed the trolley would appeal to the students on campus and, at the very least, be entertaining. As a 2001 University graduate in economics, Larson said he believes his experience with the area helped him conceive the idea with Henry to use a trolley instead of a regular bus.

“If I hadn’t gone here, I wouldn’t know what people do,” Larson said.

There are similar piano bars in the country, such as Sluggers Sports Bar in Chicago and The Waterhouse in Peoria, but no other location uses a trolley quite like this. The trolley will continue to run down Green Street not only because of its shock value and growing popularity, but also to give patrons easy and safe access to the two locations, no matter which bar is chosen first.

The “party trolley” is not a staple of Green Street nightlife yet, but it intends to be.

“We were looking for a safe way to get on campus and from campus that you don’t get anywhere else,” Henry said.