CHAMPAIGN — Drinkers were out late Sunday night into Monday morning, trying to hold on to the old Kam’s as long as possible.
“We got them outside, and they stayed outside. If you drive by the building, you see they started ripping siding off the wall,” said the bar’s owner, Scott Cochrane. “It’s impressive, I guess.
“I don’t know if that’s the right word. It’s crazy how much they love the place.”
Some even took down parts of the sign out front.
“We didn’t take them off, which we should’ve, but I didn’t want to deface the building before the last night, so people can get pictures." Cochrane said. "But when it closed, there were like 400 kids, and some guys got up and yanked part of the ‘S’ and all of the ‘K.’ We got the guy who took it, and it’s destroyed, basically.”
The revelers eventually went home, and if construction goes according to plan, they won’t have to wait long for the new “home of the drinking Illini” to open at First and Green streets.
“We’re trying to make New Year’s Eve,” Cochrane said. “Wells & Wells Construction’s doing the project, and they’re doing a fantastic job.”
If it’s not ready by the start of the new year, Cochrane said, “then we’ll open when the kids get back. I don’t have any problem that we’ll hit that.”
Whether they’ll like the new Kam’s is another question, one Cochrane understood when he and a group of investors bought the bar last year from Eric Meyer.
“I have mixed emotions. It was my arch nemesis for 40 years, and I own it now, and I realize the responsibility that’s been handed to me,” Cochrane said. “When we did this whole project, part of the reason I did it is because I wanted to save Kam’s — because I knew there was going to be no bars on Daniel Street. So I wanted to save it, and I thought I was the best person for it, with my family having 58 years in the business.”
A building permit filed last week with the city of Champaign shows Kam’s relocating to 102 E. Green St., C, the former site of a Domino's that’s since been torn down, while the 600 block of East Daniel Street, where it stood for decades, is expected to be turned into a new apartment/retail/office complex.
The old Kam’s is going to be demolished to make way for a new apartment/office/retail complex in the 600 block of East Daniel Street.
The new Kam’s will have the same orange-and-blue color scheme, maple bar tops and photos from the old Kam’s, which will be used for a type of collage.
“I took what was there, and then I tried to modernize it and bring it up to 2020 and beyond,” Cochrane said. “But I tried to stay true to Kam’s.”
Kam’s will be joined at its new location by Stan’s Gridiron and Second Chance, new establishments with names of bars long gone from Campustown.
“Stan’s is a little nicer. It has draft beer, which is the only place we have draft at,” Cochrane said.
Second Chance will have “a big terrace all the way around it on two sides, to the south and the west, with roll-away garage doors. It’s got a different feel completely,” he said.
The new location will be farther from the Main Quad, but Cochrane noted that it’s right down First Street from Memorial Stadium and just a couple blocks away from Red Lion, which he also owns and claimed is the most popular bar in Campustown.
“Kam’s will be right down the street, and I think it will just help the synergy of both of them,” he said.
Cochrane acknowledged feeling a great deal of pressure building a new bar from the ground up.
“They’re never going to forget it. People have — I have — a lot of good memories in the old Kam’s, but it’s coming down. It’s closed for good, and I feel very good about the new location,” he said. “Hopefully, I am doing it justice. But I feel pretty good about it. I’ve been doing this for a long time.”