Every Thursday the plan was the same, no questions asked. Good day, bad day, it didn’t matter. By 10 p.m. I was at Louise’s with a beer in my hand. It was such a part of my routine that my senior year of college I spent more time in that bar than I did anywhere else, including studying.
Louise’s downtown was the sophisticated senior bar, even though it didn’t look the part. It was a classic dive bar, complete with pool tables and writing on the walls. Notoriously strict on fake ID’s, they displayed confiscated fakes like an art gallery around the front door. Because underclassmen failed at sneaking in, it was a privilege to turn 21 and finally get inside.
On Thursdays, schooners of beer were $2.25 and served in plastic cups almost as big as your head. You could get drunk for under $10, making it the perfect college student special. What better way to avoid thinking about graduation than with giant beers?
Whether we needed it or not, we all bought one another extra rounds — it was just so cheap. No one kept track of their tabs or stolen beers, and your drink was never empty.
People crowded every corner of that bar. Getting anywhere required squeezing through any viable opening, dodging drinks and pool cues. Grabbing another beer was never a quick task. You stopped and talked with at least five people along the way, because it was impossible not to see someone you knew, and by the time you returned to your seat at least half of your drink was gone.
On any given Thursday, you ran into your freshman year roommate, someone you lost touch with after high school, an ex-boyfriend and the person who would sit next to you in your 11 a.m. class the next day. It was just a bunch of KU students looking for cheap beer.
If you didn’t have any friends there, meeting new people in the bathroom line was easy. Lots of beer meant lots of restroom breaks, so you had to plan. The ladies room had two toilets but no stalls, and the wait dragged on forever. Alliances formed, so, to speed things up, you could pair up to share the bathroom as long as you promised not to look.
So, there wasn’t anything particularly special about Louise’s, but you knew everyone would be at schooner night. My friends and I celebrated everything there senior year: new jobs, graduations, going away parties … even just surviving another week.
Most memorably, I spent my 22nd birthday there on the last day of classes before graduation. I drunkenly declared the entire bar to be my birthday party, and in a way it was. I was surrounded by friends from various stages of my college experience; Louise’s threw a better party for me than I could ever plan.
Six months after graduation, my friend Katie and I returned to Louise’s for a nostalgic drink before a Monday night concert. The doorman checked our IDs as usual, then hesitated for a second. He recognized us as old schooner night regulars and asked where we had been lately. I’ve never felt so proud.
Now a couple of years past graduation, I don’t get recognized anymore. When I go back, it’s no longer filled with all of my friends; they have long since moved away and found replacement bars. The price of a schooner has increased by a quarter, and the newer classes of seniors have moved in to make Louise’s their own. It’s their meeting place, their respite from worrying about what life after graduation holds. I’m no longer part of that community, but I gladly pass the torch knowing that Louise’s means the same thing to them as it did to me.
Andrea Olsen is a weekly contributing columnist who writes about her adventures in Kansas City. She’s never met a dive bar she didn’t love, and you can usually find her on the dance floor. And her drink is a whiskey neat, if you’re buying. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram: andrealolsen