South Crouse Development Project

Behind the scenes at Chuck’s last night in its current location

Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

Chuck's hosted students for the final time from its South Crouse Avenue home on Tuesday night.

Inside his office, past the Hungry Chuck’s Café bar, past the kitchen and into a side hallway, owner Steve Theobald throws out a Marlboro gold package and opts for a new one. Dressed in a blue Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, boots and glasses, he pulls out one cigarette, lights it, puffs it and taps it out into a glass ash tray.

On a night like this, Theobald knows he’s going to be needed. He’d created a small protective room — two walls are painted brown and two are painted a brown-orange — and there’s a television with 16 security cameras displayed, a safe, a computer and a bed with orange sheets and six wooden drawers. The music from Chuck’s still thumps, but a little less so in his office. When he knew he needed a reprieve, this was where Theobald could go. In the last week or so, it’s been re-arranged, just like the rest of the student-favorite bar.

By Tuesday, Theobald and his employees removed four televisions above the bar, two arcade basketball machines, the dart boards and the pool tables. All the tables and benches had been removed as well.

Earlier in the night, before the cigarette, a Chuck’s employee found Theobald in his office. A pitcher rack had fallen and spilled alcohol behind the bar.

“I went through a lot of the emotions everyone else is going through weeks and weeks and weeks ago,” Theobald said. “Everybody that works here is strained to the max. The rubber band is stretched out real tight.”

Chuck’s spent its last night at its current location at 727 S. Crouse Ave. on Tuesday night. Theobald said in an interview Tuesday that he’d like to move Chuck’s to a location within 50 yards of where it currently is. He’s searching for a bigger venue, particularly with bigger bathrooms to accommodate patrons. Theobald hopes Chuck’s next iteration opens within the next school year, before the Class of 2018 graduates.

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Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

Without a guarantee in place, Tuesday became the bar’s graduation party, albeit three weeks early (it normally takes place the Tuesday after commencement). Each stamp, which allowed patrons to get in and out of the party, read “Congrats Grad.”

“The graduation party’s always a big night … We always have big nights here,” Theobald said.

Early Tuesday, Chuck’s posted on its Facebook page about its graduation party, including a line about a $20 cover charge. The line was later edited out, according to screenshots of the post and the version currently up. Chuck’s raised the cover to recoup some of the money it had lost via legal battles to keep the bar open, Theobald said. He said the restaurant hasn’t made money in the previous 10 weeks and that he received a $43,000 bill for legal fees recently.

Despite the cost, many students still showed up, with some lining up to get a stamp and leaving to come back later. Chuck’s opened at 7 p.m. and it stayed open until 2 a.m. In addition to students, several alumni who still live in Syracuse showed up. One man who referred to himself as “Captain Midnight” said he’s a local electrician who has been drinking at Chuck’s for 42 years, since he was 17.

Because of Chuck’s uncertainty about where it’ll be next year, Theobald said it won’t be able to move the walls of the building to carry signatures from the old building to the new building. On Tuesday, the bar put up three panels for patrons to sign their names so the Class of 2017 is represented in the new building. Some used paint bottles to paint their names on the portion of the wall that will be torn down.

The benches against the wall were ripped out, which left space on the bottom quarter of the walls. In those spots, the wood had slightly splintered and dust showed between wooden boards. Patrons would walk up to the wall, find a paint bottle and either use their fingers or a brush to spell out their names. A member of the security team quickly took a spray paint can from someone who tried to spray paint her name.

“It’s sad, all the benches are gone, there are no tables to dance on, but it’s good there’s space to sign,” said Jen Bennett, a senior Martin J. Whitman School of Management student said.

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Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

While the bar had essentially been gutted, it didn’t look that way. It slowly filled from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m., using the extra space it had. By 10 p.m., Chuck’s floor was soaked in alcohol that eventually dried and stuck to shoes. Because there were few places to put used and half-used cups, they spilled on the floor throughout the night.

At the end of the night, pitchers and plastic cups lined the floor and walls. Chucks was lined with 112 plastic cups on ledges running around the bar. As people left, they put their cups on stools, boxes, one small table by the entrance and exit, but most cups fell to the floor and stayed there. Theobald ordered 50 pizzas, which came around 1:30 a.m. In less than half an hour, some pizza boxes were strewn across the ground with the cups.

Josh Daghir, a senior in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, was one of about 50 people who stayed until 2 a.m. He said he came because Chuck’s is the “gathering point” for seniors and upperclassmen. During a career fair, several alumni who came back asked him about the bar closing.

“(The bar) is something they remember,” he said.

As the music wound down, the bar’s patrons ate pizza, sat at the bar and the dancing gradually stopped. Above the bar, a sign read “Are you hungry?” without any options on the board.

An employee had already brought out a broom, pushing the mess of cups into the corner and starting to clean up. Recently, after the bar’s business hours, it flips with a crew that comes in and dismantles what’s left of it.

Theobald stood in the middle of the bar, watching, smiling and, at one point, singing. He puffed one of his cigarettes. But then he left his post, talking to an employee and getting the bar in order on its last night.

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