Saturday, August 18, 2012
The UBAA will not rise again.
When I first arrived in Evanston IL to attend graduate school at Northwestern, I was amazed by a strange reality. It was 1976, and Evanston was a college town that did not have a bar. This was very wrong and unnatural. The situation has been corrected - Evanston is now rotten with drinking establishments (disguised as restaurants). But in the late 1970's, drinking an adult beverage while sitting in a cool dark space required a field trip out of town. The closest watering whole to my first residence in Evanston was the UBAA, right over the northwest border of town in Skokie.
The UBAA (AKA the Old Crawford Inn) was launched in 1939 by Richard Diesterheft. It was originally named "The U-Bar" in honor of its'uniquely-shaped bar. Sometime in the 1950's, the local politicos passed an ordinance prohibiting the use of the word "Bar" in the name of a drinking establishment ( now THAT was over-regulation!!). Richard shrugged and re-named his joint "The UBAA Tap." In my view, this was a brilliant piece of passive resistance against tyranny.
The UBAA attracted thirsty Evanstonians like dog poop attracts files. Every night was Saturday night. You could also catch the Cubs in the afternoon and suck down a couple of Old Styles. Until the 1990's, the joint had little competition. The beer was cold, the food was decent, the hamburgers were especially good. The Diesterheft family owned and operated the joint for 4 generations. It was a constant in a sea of change. One of my favorite Saturday afternoon treats was to ride my bike on a 6+ mile route to the UBAA, have a Fat Tire and a burger, then ride home. The UBAA was an old-fashioned neighborhood tavern, a gathering place with regulars; a small business that sponsored Little League teams and bowling leagues. It wasn't a fancy place; it was in a non-nondescript building that had several funky local retail businesses (vacuum cleaner repair shop, window and siding store, etc), but it played a role valuable role in the community.
Late last year, the UBAA abruptly closed. It might have been due to a deterioration of the business; it might of been due to electrical code violations uncovered by the Village of Skokie during an inspection, maybe the Diesterheft family just ran out of energy for the enterprise. There is a huge "For Sale or Lease" sign in the parking lot. There is a hole in the fabric of the neighborhood.
Being a curious person, I called the realtor's number on the big sign in the UBAA's parking lot. I learned that the property is under contract, has been for several months, and the sale should close in a week. At first, I thought that the UBAA would rise again, under new ownership, but the news isn't good for fans of neighborhood taverns. The realtor said it will be torn down and a new development will take its place. The realtor wouldn't tell me what new building would be put in its place; it will be a commercial development, not residential. Please, no fast food!!
So after 73 years, The UBAA is about to be buried. It was a long run, and the joint is missed.