CHAMPAIGN — Campus Ink co-owner Steven Farag was working on his business’ pop-up shop in the former C.O. Daniels midday on a Friday, not normally a busy time for campus bars. But on normal days, a campus institution isn’t closing down next door.
As he peeked out windows of the old C.O. Daniels, which has acted as a storage space for Kam’s after it closed a decade ago, he saw a line of people building.
“I started looking outside, and there were just droves of people,” he said. “All of us were scrambling.”
Thousands of people walked in and out of Kam’s this weekend for the bar’s final farewell before it’s bulldozed and moved to the intersection of First and Green Streets. Farag took over C.O. Daniels, now an empty shell of its former self, knocked out the windows and strung up lights on the ceiling.
Campus Ink pre-sold 3,000 commemorative shirts to send around the country, and then sold out of their 1,500 extra shirts by midday.
That’s when co-owner Tom Coleman began printing on the 1,500 blank shirts they had in storage.
On Sunday, they were still printing, including a shirt Farag designed on Saturday. The 2014 Illinois graduate was at a tailgate outside Memorial Stadium when Illinois pulled off a shocking upset of No. 6 Wisconsin. He rushed back to his store and sketched up a shirt that said “It’s a Kam’s Miracle” along with the game’s 24-23 scoreline.
“All of a sudden, we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, we might actually win,” she said. “We were quickly texting and thinking, ‘Guys, Kam’s is closing, Illinois is going to beat Wisconsin, we’ve got to do something.’ I got a text from my future brother-in-law who said, ‘It’s a Kam’s Miracle,’ and I was like, ‘That’s the shirt.’”
Cindy Conomikes swung by the bar on Sunday along with husband Dean and her son, Patrick, who grabbed a shirt. She hadn’t been to the bar in 40 years, but she still remembered it fondly.
“You met a lot of people, elbow to elbow people,” she said. “Not the best smelling, but I just remember how fun it was.”
On Sunday, the drove of people slowed down, and patrons no longer had to wait in line. That’s when Eric Meyer, who owned Kam’s for 27 years before selling it last year, dropped by. Meyer’s history with the bar goes all the way back to the early ’80s, when he worked at the bar as a college student.
“It was as busy as ever (in the ’80s),” he said. “It was a great college bar.
“They’re taking a lot of mementos out of the old place, including the bar top. I think they’re very conscious of what this is all about, carrying on a great tradition. I’m looking forward to seeing the new store when it opens up. It’s good. It’ll kind of carry on that Kam’s tradition.”
Kam’s will move to a sparkling new location in 2020. But the old bar didn’t necessarily need new amenities to thrive. Before heading over to his old bar to swig a few beers, Meyer said he understood the move. But Sunday was still a sad day for him.
“We didn’t have to be the fanciest, nicest, new place,” Meyer said. “I’ll be honest, it was like a warehouse. But it wasn’t about the decor. It was about being a regular old college bar where everybody could go. They could dress up, they could come in shorts and a T-shirt, they could dance on the dance stage, they could dance on the booth. You could do about anything in there and have fun. I used to tell our staff, ‘Guys, we sell fun.’”