Posted on May 05 2020
And now, some epic tales from O’Malley’s Pub at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign from Eric F. Some great photos as well. As always, THANK YOU for submitting these tales.
The following stories are as true. As far as we know. Take it away Eric!
When I showed up on the University of Illinois campus as a 17-year-old freshman in August 1988, one of my first priorities was to snag a fake ID so that I could get into the campus bars. At that time, the City of Champaign had this “legal fiction” rule that you only had to be 19 to get into the bars, although you still purportedly had to be 21 to drink. In reality, the only place you had to show ID was at the front door – ergo, 19 was effectively the drinking age on campus for all practical intents and purposes. The bouncers were not particular about checking ID’s either. If your skin color and gender matched those on your fake/borrowed ID, that was close enough.
O’Malley’s in particular was a particular focus of my interest and attention. I had an older cousin who had attended U of I and had regaled me with his stories, so I knew my way around campus a bit and had heard enough to pique my interest, including the well-known O’Malley’s tradition of signing Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ every night at midnight. So, borrowed ID in hand, I trudged off to the corner of 4th and Green and found my way down to the basement dive bar that was O’Malley’s.
On most nights of the week, the place would be packed wall-to-wall with people. There were rarely lines to get in because they just kept cramming more and more people in until there would be literally hundreds of people in a place that was probably not even rated to hold 100! The whole place was tiled on the floors and halfway up the walls with terra cotta-colored ceramic tiles with large floor drains scattered about. At the end of the night, they’d drag a big garden hose around with a spray nozzle and literally hose the place down. I’m not sure if it ever really completely dried out!
You either loved the place or you hated it – there was no in between! On Mondays and Tuesdays, they had dime beers. Wednesday was Little Kings night, where you’d buy ‘Little Kings’ 8 oz. shorty bottles by the case. The bartenders would open the top of the case, dump a bunch of ice in and send you on your way. Thursday was ‘Mug Club’ night, where you could bring your 22 oz. O’Malley’s Mug and fill it with the drink of your choice for $2. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays were three solid days and nights of pure, unadulterated debauchery. On the weekends, the place would be so packed that you’d always bring two mugs with you, fill them both on your first trip to the bar and then get back in line again. By the time you got back up to the bar, you’d be finishing your second mug and be well-primed for the evening!
One evening a group of my fraternity brothers was at O’Malley’s after a Saturday football game. After having already consumed copious quantities of cheap draft beer, one of our buddies decided to do an ‘upside down margarita’. This consisted of leaning over backwards with your head on the bar while the bartender poured margarita mix and tequila into your mouth from about two feet above you, then standing up, swishing it around in your mouth to “mix” it, and gulping it down. All was well until about 2 minutes later at which point it became clear that my buddy was going to puke. However, because of the aforementioned crowds typical of O’Malley’s, there was no way for him to move and nowhere for him to go to even if he could have. Thinking quickly, he picked up an empty plastic beer glass, calmly and neatly puked into it, filling it right up to the brim and setting it back on the bar rail. Having basically nothing but beer in his stomach, his cup-o-puke looked just like any other glass of beer. Unfortunately for one of our other buddies, he mistakenly grabbed that cup instead of his own cup of beer and, before anyone could say anything, proceeded to take a big drink. Of course, being the good friends that we all were, no one said a word but instead all burst out laughing when he said “Weird . . . that beer tasted like tequila . . .”!
Thanks Eric! Just awesome. - The LLT Team
“Hi Bob” was the best. It’s still my favorite drinking game of all time.
Great story Eric. I started the bar in 1982, after graduating from the U of I in 1979. My parents were somewhat concerned, as I had a good job after graduation, make $18,000 a year. But I knew early on, I wanted to start a business. My wife was working upstairs in the College Corner Mall, corner of 4th & Green and the owner wanted to do something with the empty basement. I came up with the idea of a campus bar with an Irish theme, so O’Malley’s was born. We had to be very creative to compete with the other bars on campus. My mother-in-law gave me the idea of “Drink the Wall”. We formed the “Hi Bob” club, after the Bob Newhart show, packing the basement at 5 pm each weekday to watch the latest episode. Every time one of Bob’s friends saw Bob, they would say “hi Bob” which prompted everyone to take a drink…but if they ever just said “Bob”, you had to chug. Operations were a bit different back then, but it was a fun experience. Thanks for sharing your story.