On Tuesday, some troubling news came across my “desk” (coffee table), and I felt the need to respond.
On the Syracuse Planning Commission agenda: hearing on a proposal to demolish several South Crouse Ave structures, including Chuck's Cafe.— Michael Burke (@michaelburke47) January 17, 2017
TNIAAM alumnus and current Daily Orange news editor Michael Burke reported the news that New Jersey real estate development firm BLVD Equities (managed by Syracuse alumnus Jared Hutter) has proposed a plan to tear down 727 S. Crouse Ave. That address includes Funk ‘n Waffles, as well as long-time campus favorite bar Chuck’s Cafe.
Now, there are some alternative feelings on Chuck’s hanging around the Syracuse internet. And admittedly, things have declined quite a bit at my one-time favorite bar since I graduated in 2010. The ownership change in 2013 yielded a shift in atmosphere, and obviously “kids today” just don’t get how good it used to be (obligatory: get off my lawn). I mean, many currently on campus can’t possibly understand what those from 2008-13 used to love about Chuck’s. These students were the same ones that created this crime against humanity.
If you’re going to #SaveCuse, I’ll admit, saving Chuck’s probably isn’t the proper avenue to do so, either.
Chuck’s was once a great college bar to me, but it’s tough to say how different it was from other college bars (it’s not like there are many college-age reviewers of college bars around the internet). The same could be said for Hungry Charlie’s, Harry’s, Lucy’s, Maggie’s, Konrad’s, 44’s and a slew of others that once or still exist on Marshall Street. These bars all sucked as functional bars. But they were defined by the experiences everyone had at them. And that’s probably what matters the most.
For students that watched Syracuse knock off Virginia at Chuck’s last year, they’ll always remember where they were. For every fan losing their minds in the streets following SU’s national title win over Kansas, that goes double for them. They probably started and/or ended that evening at at least one of M Street’s multiple drinking establishments at the time.
For me, Chuck’s was a special place because it served as the local meeting place. Walk in by yourself at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday, you probably knew a couple people there. Arrive at 10 p.m. on Saturday, and you were met with a wall of bodies, and then some very cheap beers. A lot of my college memories were shaped by meeting at Chuck’s, grabbing $3.50 pitchers (on Thursday) or $1.50 bottles (on Friday) and then eventually progressing elsewhere. Or if you started too strong at Chuck’s, you were happy to stay the rest of the evening -- especially if you had snagged a beer-soaked, graffiti-ridden booth.
My (now) wife and I wrote our names on a table at Chuck’s before we left, as did my roommates and I. It’s unlikely you can still see those letters anywhere. That doesn’t matter to me, or them. We’ll always have those memories, from the positive (see above) to the negative (arriving with the rest of the 2010 senior class following a brutal loss to Butler in the NCAA Tournament to drink ourselves into eternity).
So I guess this is where I come around on the thoughts once tossed out by those #SaveCuse students, even if disagree completely with the delivery and hashtag. Those parts were stupid, as were the “tradition” parts they created out of the blue. But the good times and memories they’d had there weren’t. Those were real. And getting rid of Castle Court parties meant the same thing as potentially getting rid of Chuck’s does to me, rightly or wrongly.
If this is truly the end for Chuck’s, I’m just glad I’ll be able to bid it one last, proper farewell when I head back to campus this March. And if we’re being realistic, no matter what replaces it, you don’t really lose those good times. If they truly mattered, they stick around. Even without Chuck’s, Castle Court, 44’s, Konrad’s or the various other favored drinking bars (or parking lots) at Syracuse, they stick around just fine.