Bar woes: Cost of business and changing trends may be affecting bars

Dan Burke has noticed a number of bars in the Illinois Valley are either for sale or closed.

Nowadays, younger adults hold more house parties and stay home instead of going out as in the past. said Burke, vice president of the Starved Rock area Illinois Licensed Beverage Association chapter 176.

Burke is one of the local leaders in the food and beverage industry hosting the state convention of the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association this week at Grand Bear Lodge, where legislation was discussed that affects bar owners and those in the hospitality industry statewide.

Although not in attendance at the convention, a bar manager of Elle’s Tap in Peru said he’s noticed the area “looks a little quiet” and “softer” when it comes to traffic when he goes for rides in town than years past.

After 36 years in the job, Kevin “Sluba” Ellerbrock has seen spurts of slower traffic.

He did mention the cost of owning a bar has gone up over the years but couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason for “softer” traffic.

Burke, an owner of the former 516 On First and Two Fools in La Salle, said the younger adults who do go out go out later in the night than people used to and come home closer to midnight, which is earlier than people used to be out.

“It’s expensive to go out,” he said. “If you notice, drinks are going up,” explaining that the cost of doing business has gone up over the years for taverns, night clubs and bars.

With all the new rules, regulations and licensing involved, “it’s quite costly to run a bar,” he said.

Although not as many people go out on Friday or Saturday nights as in the past, he said “Sunday Fun Day,” has become popular for the area.

Many people hop around for an hour or two on Sunday mornings and clear off the scene by noon or 1 p.m. He said many bars have Bloody Mary specials.

“There are more people out on a Sunday morning at 11 than there on Saturday at 11 (p.m.),” Burke said.

Will the hard times get better for bars?

He thinks we’ll see a stronger influence on chains such as Applebee’s, TGI Friday’s which have more money behind them, but there are a few corner bars that will do well.

He predicts those who’re not current with today’s innovations in the bar industry will be weeded out.

Are bar closures a statewide and national phenomenon?

“I think there’s some of that everywhere, but I think it’s particular in our area,” Burke said, explaining that there are many bars per capita here.

The days of going out and tearing the town up until closing hour have gone by the wayside with new DUI laws, he said.

Ali Braboy can be reached at (815) 220-6931 and Follow her on Twitter @NT_LaSalle.