Northwestern students, alumni recall memories at The Keg of Evanston after liquor license loss

Jessica Floum

In light of Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl’s order to revoke The Keg of Evanston’s liquor license, Northwestern students organized Facebook events to commemorate the bar, including a farewell dinner, a “TKOE Marathon” and a “vigil” at Tommy Nevin’s Pub. The farewell dinner and marathon were scheduled for Monday evening but did not take place because The Keg, 810 Grove St., locked and closed its doors.

Student sentiment, however, remained. Facebook statuses today spoke of “mourning” The Keg and recalled fond memories at the bar.

“It’s kind of a sacred place,” Communication sophomore Peter Stein said. “At least it was.”

Students’ high opinion of The Keg stemmed from its function as a communal gathering space and social hub, McCormick junior Stephen Formosa said.

“It’s just a common social place to end the night and to see people that you may not have seen in a long time, to run into acquaintances that you haven’t hung out with,” Formosa said. “It’s a place where people convene. It’s also a place for dancing.”

NU alumnus Mike Haas (Medill ‘10) recalled one night at The Keg that stuck in his memory. While walking to The Keg with his roommates, Haas tripped and fell face-first on the sidewalk. Haas said he was such a determined Keg patron, even a bloody face would not keep him from the bar.

“We went anyways,” Haas said. “It wasn’t a place where you were going to get judged just because you were covered in blood. It was a very non-judgmental zone.”

Haas said he could not let one bloody incident smear his track record of going entire quarters without missing a Monday night at The Keg.

“It was a point of pride to say that you’ve been to The Keg every single Monday that quarter, every single Monday that year,” Haas said.

Although The Keg was a place to socialize for Haas and other undergraduate students, Kellogg students such as Jonathan Paris used the bar to host fundraisers for nonprofit groups. Paris said he was disappointed that The Keg lost its license.

“The Keg is the only place that is big enough to accommodate the 500-plus people that attend these events,” Paris said in an email to The Daily. “So obviously if The Keg gets shut down we won’t have anywhere in town to have these types of events.”

Paris said Kellogg events at The Keg have raised over $20,000 for nonprofits in the last year.

“It’s more than just a dive bar where underage kids from the North Shore go dance and party,” he said in the email.

Despite this reputation, The Keg originated as an “upscale restaurant,” former Evanston resident Dan Lindwall said. Lindwall lived in Evanston from 1963 to 1983, and in high school went to The Keg with friends for its good food, especially its stuffed mushroom appetizers.

“When I thought about The Keg, I thought about how good the food was,” said Lindwall, whose daughter is currently a Medill sophomore.

Lindwall and his friends, then high school students, enjoyed their food in the company of an older crowd. An “upscale restaurant,” The Keg had nice furniture, low lighting and proper waiters, Lindwall said.

Alumna Linda Bair (SESP ‘78) and alumnus Mark Bair (Kellogg ‘78) worked at The Keg together during their time at NU. Linda Bair said at the time The Keg was the nicest restaurant in Evanston. She said working with Mark, to whom she is now married, helped foster their relationship.

“It was actually an important part of our lives because it was those early dating years,” she said. “We had the chance to hang out together and to come and go together.”

Linda Bair said the revocation of The Keg’s liquor license will close a chapter in Evanston history and her life.

“For us, it’s very nostalgic,” she said. “It’s where we solidified our relationship and went on to marry. It’s very important to our personal life.”

The Bairs have been married for 30 years and have a daughter who is a junior at NU. Bair said when she took her daughter to school, she was surprised to see how much The Keg had changed.

Lindwall agreed The Keg has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent decades.

“The Keg now and The Keg before, they were two different things,” Lindwall said. “It’s completely different but with the same name.”

Although Lindwall has remained in the Chicago area, he has not been back to The Keg since it turned into a bar.

“Thinking back, I just wish they would’ve kept it a nice restaurant,” Lindwall said. “I’d still be going there today.”

Marshall Cohen contributed reporting.

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