Illini Inn nears the end of its traditions

A+student+walks+past+the+exterior+of+the+Illini+Inn%2C+located+on+4th+St.

Ryan Fang

A student walks past the exterior of the Illini Inn, located on 4th St.

By Olivia Bienvenue, Contributing Writer

It’s a cool, crisp, fall game day at the University. Waves of anticipation and pride are sweeping across the orange- and blue-painted campus. It is the perfect atmosphere to win a Big Ten football game and to enjoy a mug of beer at the Illini Inn.

The Illini Inn has undergone some changes over the past year, including closing over the summer. The Inn is one of the oldest bars on campus and is known for its long-standing traditions, but rumors of its closing have put some its beloved traditions in jeopardy.

The Illini Inn is home to the University’s well-known Mug Club, which now has more than 92,000 members and counting.

To be a member of the non-exclusive club, one must first chug a cup of beer. The next step is to fill out a membership card and memorize their assigned Mug Club number. The person is then given a mug of beer to drink at their own pace.  Finally, the person must correctly recite their Mug Club number and will then be an official member.  Members earn the right to use a mug for their beer anytime they come into the bar with their membership cards.

“I know we’ve had some old people come in with Mug Club cards in the hundreds, so it’s been a while,” said Meredith French, senior in Business and bartender at the Illini Inn.

Until this year, one of the most notable features of the Illini Inn was the dollar bills that were signed and pinned to the ceiling by customers.  Another recognizable feature of the Inn is the signatures and doodles that customers are welcome to draw on the walls.

Dave Grider, who has been the manager of the Inn since it reopened at the beginning of the school year, said his favorite thing about the bar is its long history. He also noted that the Illini Inn’s traditions, like the Mug Club, are what people like about the bar.

“There’s a nostalgia to the Inn that keeps people coming back,” Grider said.

Illini Inn bartender Cole Murray said the Inn does not change often, but that people liked that aspect of the bar.

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s changed much at all, and I think that’s why people come in,” Murray said.

Murray also said that people would often come in to look for their dollar bill on the ceiling, their signature on the wall, or just to reminisce.

One thing that has changed about the Illini Inn this year is the ownership.  Along with the new ownership came new hours of business and the removal of the dollar bills on the ceiling. 

At the end of last school year, there were rumors that the Inn would be closed, and that the building would be torn down. However, the bar was bought by a new owner and given life for at least one more year.

“The Inn is going to be open through the end of the school year,” Grider said about the rumors of the Inn’s closure.

French added that the future of the Inn after this school year is uncertain.

“That’s about as accurate as we can get right now, so we know that it’s going to stay open for that long,” she said.