Campustown bars ready for busy weekend ahead

By Brittany Abeijon

Students and alumni, all clad in orange and blue, return to Champaign-Urbana annually to sip on ice-cold beers and clink their bottles together in honor of Homecoming, football and friends.

Some may head to Memorial Stadium to begin tailgating, but many return to their favorite campus bars with friends to be reminded of old memories and make new ones.

Pete Steger, general manager of Kam’s, 618 E. Daniel St., said his bar has been a fixture on this campus for more than 50 years.

“Homecoming is one of our biggest weekends of the school year,” Steger said. “We thrive on weekends like these.”

Steger said although the bar does not hire outside security to prepare for Homecoming, it makes sure to staff more heavily to keep things under control.

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    One University student’s father said the big football game is what draws him to the campus each Homecoming Weekend.

    “Where there’s football, there has to be beer and brats,” he said.

    He said he prefers the more relaxed atmosphere of It’s Brothers Bar and Grill, 613 E. Green St., because of the great selection of beers and cleanliness, but any bar is a must on Homecoming Weekend.

    “You get more of a sports atmosphere being in a bar,” he said. “Everyone everywhere is in orange; it’s really fun for all ages.”

    Kam’s expects to attract crowds at 8 a.m. on Saturday when it opens throughout the day and into the night.

    “We see lots of recent grads and Illinois alumni sweatshirts are frequent,” Steger said. “Some students are dressed to go out, but some just say ‘You know what? It’s game day,’ and we thrive on that atmosphere.”

    Brian Moonin, junior in ACES, is more concerned with football this Homecoming Weekend than with the upcoming Halloween holiday.

    “A lot of people go to Halloween at (the University of Wisconsin) Madison, but I think since Homecoming is the same weekend most people will stay,” Moonin said. “It does take away from the Halloween atmosphere though. People are in football and Homecoming mode.”

    Moonin said most of the bars seem newer, but Kam’s is the place where people get that feeling of school spirit.

    Although he doesn’t have season tickets, it is a tradition among his friends to attend the Homecoming football game every year no matter which team the Illini are playing.

    “We’re going to kill Ball State,” he said. “But win or lose, we still booze.”

    With the alcohol use running high during Homecoming Weekend, Steger said that fights really aren’t an issue. He added that if they are, his doormen are always aware.

    “We’ll have nine doormen on staff for the night alone. Their job is to keep an eye out for certain things, make sure people don’t sneak in gate, try to clear the lines outside for fire codes,” he said.

    High cover charges at bars may turn some away, but Steger said Kam’s does not plan to “punish people” by charging a high price at the door.

    “A cover charge is expected; that’s how we make money, but we really just want people to get in and buy drinks,” Steger said.