Despite loyal patronage, protesting Facebook groups and a 38-year run, one of Drake’s oldest watering holes shut its doors Saturday—but not without celebration.
A Drake area bar since 1961, the establishment called West End Lounge at 2309 Forest Ave. has been a Drake favorite. The bar has changed hands several times, most recently coming under the ownership of Scott Carlson and Patrick Kelly.
Carlson and Kelly, both Drake alumni, bought the business in 2005 just before Drake Relays. After the bar had been closed for a few months, Carlson said he and Kelly saw an opportunity to bring it back to life from their college days.
“I used to tend (the) bar,” Carlson said. “I met my wife there.”
But the five-year lease is up, and Carlson says the six-month search for buyers has proven fruitless. So last week, a Facebook event was created to alert the masses of the bar’s closure. The “West End Finale” had 454 members planning to attend as of Saturday afternoon, the day of the event.
Another Facebook group, “Save West End,” has since been created and has 724 members. Members, who span from students to alumni, use the group’s wall to reminisce and propose solutions to save the bar from closure. Suggestions range from bake sales to “paying full price” for drinks, jokes one student.
Although the propositions are in jest, Carlson says the Facebook groups have been beneficial for the business.
“We’re hoping that the activity that the students and alumni have created may find that buyer,” he said. “It was kind of an unintended consequence when we did a Facebook page; we’ve been trying to sell it for six months, and now we’ve probably had 20 interested buyers.”
As of Friday, Carlson said a price for the business—including the rights to the name “West End Lounge”—had not been agreed upon should a buyer come along. The property, however, has been leased to a new renter and a liquor license has been obtained for that property.
According to the Des Moines City Council minutes from last Monday, a liquor license was approved for 2309 Forest Ave. for an establishment called Rohry’s.
Carlson said Saturday, however, that he did not yet know whether the new renters would want to buy the business.
Regardless of what happens in the coming days and weeks, Carlson, Kelly and the rest of the West End crew were intent on taking the campus’s east-side bar out with a bang.
Even as the ball was tipped down the street for the final men’s basketball game of the season, alumni and students alike milled around the bar, taking photos and laughing with groups of friends.
Carolyn Crump, a 2005 graduate, sat at a high-top table with friends on Saturday like she did during her time at Drake. She now lives in Minneapolis but came back for one last weekend at the bar.
“This is the place where I met or hung out with every single one of my friends in college,” she said. “It’s my ‘Cheers’.”
It’s unknown whether all 454 members attended what Bulldogs know to be the end of a West End era, but celebration—and those that loved it most—was not lacking.