Changes in price irk local dive bar regulars

By Ethan Jewett

The Woodlawn Tap, popularly known as ‘Jimmy’s,’ and the Cove have been immutable mainstays of the Hyde Park bar scene for years. Jimmy’s, located on 55th and Woodlawn has long been a favorite of U of C faculty and students while the Cove, situated at the end of 55th Street near the Shoreland, is frequented by neighborhood regulars and students. Upon walking through the doors, one does not notice much change in either establishment change in the last few decades, the only exception being the installation of blinking video games to complement the traditional bar games. But this year brought other changes to the Cove and Jimmy’s, with rising prices and cut specials.

Students and professors who drop by Jimmy’s for a study break or a night of camaraderie with friends and colleagues will find a quarter-per-pint increase in the price of beer though liquor prices have remained constant. This translates to “about a ten percent hike,” says Bill Callahan, the owner of Jimmy’s.

Callahan commented that the price increase is due to the rising cost of doing business, partly owing to a new city food tax implemented in the spring. In addition to the price increases, Callahan was forced to reduce staff for the summer season. Callahan, who managed and bartended at Jimmy’s before assuming ownership in 2000, hopes the combined price increase and increased business during the school year will allow him to hire back the staff he had to let go.

While the changes at Jimmy’s probably would not be noticed by the casual bar-goer, the change at the Cove is hard to miss. A sign conspicuously placed on the front door reads: “NO PITCHER SPECIALS.” And, indeed, the famous $4 Thursday pitchers that attracted large groups of students to this corner of Hyde Park are no more.

Todd Sleeper, the morning and afternoon bartender at the Cove, was unable to explain the pricing change. But, according to Sleeper, “It probably won’t affect business too much. [The pitchers] are still only $6.”

The usual group of regulars clustered around one end of the bar on Thursday afternoon seemed unconcerned with the lack of pitcher specials, ordering bottled beer and keeping to themselves.

Students speculate that on the noisy Thursday nights, presided over by Mike Block, the longtime evening bartender, the Cove will become quieter with the abolition of the pitcher special. “I won’t go there as often,” said Brandon Halcott, a fourth-year in the College, reasoning that trips to the Cove will be more expensive. “It’s horrible that it’s gone,” he continued. “It’s like wing night at the pub. You think it’s always going to be there. This might hurt their student business.”

The Cove has not yet had a Thursday of business during the school year without its pitcher special, so it is currently impossible to evaluate the impact that its absence might have, but the Cove’s regulars will likely be undeterred. Jimmy’s hosted a packed house on Wednesday night, patronage apparently unaffected by student concern over the price of beer.

Despite concern over the impact on students’ pocketbooks, prices do change, and when they do, according to Block, “They always go up.”

Callahan at Jimmy’s observed that the price increases are “just part of business, especially in the bar business. It’s not a break-even proposition.”