KAM’s to take over ‘best’ of Firehaus, The Clybourne
August 27, 2018
As Champaign-Urbana bar tycoon Scott Cochrane closes his two Sixth Street bars, Firehaus and The Clybourne, he plans to keep the “best” of the businesses alive at KAM’s.
KAM’s, located just a block over on Daniel Street, will bring back Cly’s Tuesday night Wine Night and Firehaus’s Wednesday night karaoke and Sharkbowls.
“We want to take the best of Haus and Cly’s and bring it here,” Cochrane said.
Cochrane, along with three other buyers, acquired KAM’s in August from longtime owner Eric Meyer and closed the property for “major clean-up.” His team grouted the floors, replaced the ceilings and filled six different dumpsters in the process so far. Even the infamous KAM’s smell — which normally radiates down Daniel Street — is gone.
Now they’re just waiting on Champaign to approve the liquor license.
Cochrane applied for the liquor license Aug. 20, so the bar is expected to be open by the end of the month. He’s hoping to have the bar open before Cly’s and Firehaus close on Sept. 4.
“The opportunity fell into place,” he said. Cochrane was close to buying KAM’s 10 years ago — and even ran it one Greek Reunion Weekend. But the deal fell through. His connection, though, comes from his time working there as a freshman at the University.
There’s no major remodeling planned for now, he said.
“I hope to carry the tradition and make it even better,”
Cochrane said. Jason Reda, bar manager, agrees. “If anything, we’re adding to the location,” he said.
‘It has to change.’
Cochrane confirmed the sale of Firehaus (operating under different names in the past) and Cly’s, which have been in his name for almost two decades, on Aug. 10. But rumors of the sale have been circulating since April of this year, as the Champaign City Council voted to approve the acquisition of the public alley north of Cly’s to CORE, a Chicago-based development firm.
“We’re typically not going to stand in the way of somebody that wants to bring businesses and bring economic development to our community, so usually we’re going to go for that,” said City Council member Greg Stock at April’s meeting.
“I don’t think it’s our place to say, ‘Well, you can’t sell your business because we know that some people like it,’ so, you know, we’re kind of stuck on that one,” Stock said. “If the business owner is willing to sell to someone, that is between the business owner and the buyer.”
For Cochrane, he knows business is business and the “opportunity came” to sell to CORE.
Tom Harrington, CORE’s director of acquisitions, declined to comment, but said the group will be releasing much more information this week.
City Council documents indicate the 17-story high-rise will take over 300,000 square feet, leaving the first floor for commercial area and the upper floors residential.
While Cochrane remained tight-lipped about what’s next in store for him, he did confirm he has been looking at properties and has been in meetings to discuss re-opening Firehaus and Cly’s, but possibly under different names. He’s planning to open next year.
Cochrane knows his two bars are campus staples and closing them will affect the campus bar culture. “It has to change,” he said, since he knows there are two less bars for students to go to.
Continuing traditions: From KAM’s to Illini Inn
Cochrane wouldn’t rule out the closing of KAM’s for the construction of a commercial-residential property in the future. He also owns C.O. Daniels, a former bar and now empty space, just a few doors down, which would allow him to sell or revamp both properties on the same block.
That’ll be some time, though, since business is still good, said Reda.
The business of turning bars into luxury residential spaces isn’t new to campus. In 2016, the Champaign County Zoning Board approved a developer’s request to increase the size of the lot where the Illini Inn was located.
But even then, plans were made to reopen the Inn and add housing on the upstairs levels. The city approved a special-use permit in 2017 to allow for renovations on both the Illini Inn and the residential area, since it was only zoned for residential use.
The Illini Inn — which has been serving alcohol since the 1960s — was demolished last summer.