A Saturday night in the beloved city of Athens is one of a kind. Whether it be spent with friends at your favorite bar, at the historic Athena, or with a Whitzer in hand, nightlife in Athens draws people together.
But for many, it is The Union Bar and Grille that sets nightlife in Athens apart from the rest – the wooden interior and the resulting aroma, the beloved history of the building itself, the eclectic collection of townies and hipsters resembling townies, and the sense of closeness and acceptance exchanged between bar regulars. It is these things and many, many more that have shaped The Union into what has grown to be so cherished in the hearts of the Athens community.
On November 16th, 2014, news broke of the devastating fire that destroyed several buildings along Union Street at 4 a.m. the day, including the beloved Union Bar and Grill. The Union reached out to the Athens community regarding the news via Facebook.
To the Union extended family, I’m sad to report that early this morning a fire started on our block of Union Street. Though firefighters made heroic efforts to contain the blaze, it quickly spread down the street to us. I currently don’t know the full extent of the damage but it is very extensive. Thankfully no one was injured, but The Union as we knew it is no more. I truly appreciate all the offers of help and warm sentiments. The Union was a second home to so many of us (including myself), it makes my heart ache. As I know more I will try to keep this page updated. Hopefully the place will have a good phoenix story coming soon.
In March of 2015, Athens City council members made the decision to declare the buildings destroyed in the fire a “historic district”.
The charm of the Union Bar and Grille can be attributed to its cherished and diverse history. The building itself has been around since 1900, making it one of the oldest buildings destroyed in the fire. According to Athens News, the building was purchased in 1945 by the father of The Union’s previous, the Couladis brothers. Before Mr. Couladis purchased the building, it was home to a variety of businesses, includingThe Elk Hotel and a bar/restaurant called The Hot Dog.
In 1924, according to Athens Messenger, it was converted into a residence hall for Ohio University students. Eric Gunn, current owner of The Union Bar and Grill told Athens Messenger, “Around the 1960s, upstairs became what it is now. Downstairs has pretty much stayed the same up until the remodel in 2008.”
To current residents of Athens, The Union Bar and Grille was known for its music scene. Over the years, The Union has hosted some of the biggest names in music, including The White Stripes and The Black Keys, according to The Athens News. But what sets The Union apart is its loyalty to local musicians. Blond, a “reverb rock” band based in Athens, was the last band to play at The Union before the November 16th fire, according to The Union’s Facebook page.
As far as the rebuilding of the Union, progress has been slow. Several local news affiliates believed the rebuilding process to have been completed by the end of summer 2015, but a portion of W. Union remains blocked off.
What are you favorite memories of The Union Bar and Grill? Let us know!