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Remembering Bygone Champaign-Urbana Establishments

The unrelenting march of progress has claimed even more memorable businesses over the past few years.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

About five years ago, I wrote a column about this exact same topic, and it’s come to my attention that the earlier piece is now wildly out of date. That’s definitely a testament to the development pressures in Champaign’s campustown neighborhood, but it’s also tough to ignore the role that the COVID-19 pandemic may have taken on some of these businesses as well.

In no particular order, let’s take a look at some of the most memorable bars and restaurants that have closed down since my first article back in 2018.



Braving the original KAMS was a right of passage for Illini students until its demolition in 2019. Of course, now there’s a new Kams, but the current iteration will never (and probably should never) replicate the environment of the old one. The floors were sticky, the music was loud, the blue guys were potent, and the patrons were thoroughly inebriated. Kams was one of the epicenters for students involved in Greek life on campus, especially on Homecoming and Mom’s/Dad’s weekend.

As much fun as the original Kams was, my unpopular opinion is that it belongs in the past. Old Kams was already a relic of a bygone era when it was demolished. It’s time for the next generation of students to make memories at the new generation of campus bars.


This was a rough closing to see happen, since Zorba’s was a longtime staple of the Green Street food scene, but it closed up shop for good during chaotic early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Zorba’s gyros were beloved by many undergrads who would often cross over to the restaurant from the Union or Main Quad on their way home after classes. The heavily seasoned fries were a perfect compliment to the gyros, and being able to pump self-serve tzatziki sauce for them was even better.

All that said...Shwarma Joint sounds like it could be a pretty legit replacement, and I plan to try it out next time I’m in town.

Cly’s (The Clybourne)

Famous for Tuesday wine night, Cly’s and its next door neighbor were a staple of the drinking scene on campus. Much like Kams, Cly’s frequently hosted Greek events throughout the year. Cly’s also dabbled in a food and catering service referred to as “The Patio.” I never tried it, but I do recall seeing the ads for it.

To me, Cly’s was always the (marginally) classier and more upscale version of Firehaus. I recall there being a fairly steep cover charge on most weekends, so I would typically skip it on an ordinary weekend.


Firehaus and Cly’s complemented each other fairly well, which shouldn’t be surprising considering they shared the same owner and were located right next to each other on 6th Street. Famous for its fishbowls, Firehaus was more casual compared to Cly’s. It was essentially a restaurant during the day, and my thoughts on the food can be best summed up by this patron’s review.

Even after it fully switched over to being a bar in the evening, Firehaus was much more sports-oriented compared to its next-door counterpart. They would routinely host watch parties for Illini games, as well as for the Chicago Bears and Chicago Blackhawks. All the screens almost gave it the feel of a BWWs, but with the much more authentic atmosphere of a campus bar.

Wingin’ Out

I’m still getting over the loss of the campus Niro’s Gyros location at this site, so it’s hard to wrap my head around the closure of Wingin’ Out too. You would think its location in the shadow of 309 Green would be one of the most lucrative sites for a late night Chicago-style restaurant in Champaign. After all, it’s the first place that Red Lion patrons see when they leave at bar close.


Not sure what happened to this one, especially given all of its locational advantages, but I’m assuming the pandemic had something to do with it. I won’t particularly miss the food though; it always seemed quite overpriced and pretty unremarkable aside from its convenience.

Flat Top Grill

I used to frequent the Flat Top location on 6th Street on a regular, if infrequent basis, and I would also occasionally stop by the one off Veteran’s Parkway over in Normal while visiting my brother there too. But it would seem that Flat Top as a corporation has gone in a bit of a different direction in recent years, as both of its Central Illinois locations have closed, and the four remaining restaurants are now located in Chicago, Lombard, South Bend and Fort Wayne.

Just seeing that roti and the little stick with the meat/veggies written on it brings back so many memories. It might even be worth a trip down memory lane next time I’m in Chicago again...


This one was a bit of a shocker when it closed. It was always a very popular bar, and I recall often seeing its line stretch far down Green Street while I was across the way over at Murphy’s. That popularity made its closure a bit of a surprise back in 2021, but it may have also have been the key to its recently announced revival:

As far as I can tell, no other information is available about the new Brothers location on campus, but it’s great to see a once-beloved institution announce that it intends to re-establish itself in C-U.

It doesn’t seem like the march of time will be slowing down in Campustown anytime soon, so I imagine we’ll be right back here again a few years from now recounting and remembering the latest business casualties.

In the meantime, and especially if you live in or around C-U, I definitely encourage you to visit Campustown businesses over the summer. You may not realize it, but many businesses there do have summer hours, and most of them are still paying top-dollar rent. I highly encourage you to stop by sometime over the next few weeks while the students are gone if you can. It’s nice to experience certain bars and restaurants in a more relaxed environment during the summer, and spending a bit of money at your favorite campus-area institutions will help to keep them off this list in the future.