"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, April 23, 2006

RIP: Remembering the Avalanche Bar

April 24, 1997. The Day the 'Lanche Died.

As an undergraduate student at Marquette University from 1987-1991, my not-so-unofficial motto was "Don't let school interfere with your education."

Seriously, who will wake up at age 70 and say, "Damn, I shoulda gotten out of bed for that 8am biology lab!" I'm sure this perspective on collegiate life was shared by many. It even was perfected by a few folks I know.

One reason this life view was so rewarding at MU was the Avalanche Bar. As the saying went, "Get your degree at Marquette, get your education at the 'Lanche." This bar could not be topped for any number of reasons, including:

  • -Red, White and Blue beer on tap, cheap enough to buy with couch change.
  • -Naked beer slides
  • -Avalanche mugs -- an exclusive club
  • -Two windows (kind of)
  • -It was generally an upper-classmen's hangout....very few newbies
  • -The 'booze to go' cooler at the front of the bar -- the ideal way to invite the thirsty locals into the collegiate scene.
Here's what the Marquette Tribune had to say on this fateful date, April 24, 1997. Here's the MJS' take from May 2, 1997 .

The 'Lanche was demolished nine years ago today in favor campus redevelopment and some rather nice student housing. Perhaps the students in those units wake up from time to time hearing the ghosts of patrons past at the 'Lanche.....some singing 'Brown-eyed Girl', 'Born to Run' and other cliche bar tunes. I'd bet there are also a few ghostly shrieks from those who dared slide naked across the 'Lanche's battered linoleum floor (often coated with shards of broken beer bottles). And the smell -- well, there's no way the unforgettable stench of stale beer can ever be removed from that site, not after more than 60 years of serving Milwaukee's finest beverages.

My best 'Lanche memory? I enjoyed my last beer as an undergrad inside that hallowed saloon -- slamming a few before running across the street to claim my diploma in front of the Union. Thanks, Dr. Friman!

The Mathu Party Page has a bunch of good material on the 'Lanche, including poignant poetry. Check out their home page here.

Avalanche Bar, RIP. Anybody have any favorite Lanche memories?


Anonymous said...

I quit going to the 'lanche after the young man died outside, I think in late 85 or early 86. I was a Heg's and Gym man. I know that from a parent of a prospective student, Wells St today is exactly what you want to see. But from an 88 alum's perspective, it is soulless and corporate. Bring back the rows of bars and Wales on Wells. Ah, well, corporations and security conquer all, I guess

Anonymous said...

I remember tearing ligaments in my knee my freshman year and having my friends carry me to the 'Lance, leaning me up against the bar, the wall and the juke box to feed me RW&B's all night. What a night. Great bar, friends and memories.

Anonymous said...

I am a '02 grad but had heard great stories of the Lanche from my cousin, a '89 grad (kind of). Anyways, a roommate of mine was walking by there one day and snagged the giant plastic Lanche sign. It is current afixed to the third floor wall of the abode. That thing should be there forever.

Anonymous said...

The few times I went in during my four blustery years at MU, it felt like a not so subtle combination of Blue Velvet and Barfly. I rarely went there because it was an absolute cesspool of disease. You see I preferred much more upscale establishments like the GreenTree. As God as my witness, $2.00 all you can drink must have included somebody relieving themselves into kegs to keep the kegs full. It just doesn't work out mathematically otherwise.

Anonymous said...

That was one great bar

Anonymous said...

The 'Lanche is a piece of MU history that will never be forgotten. One of a kind.

Anonymous said...

2 Lanche memories:
First, I remember one cold winter night, we found a homeless guy sleeping in our basement in our house on 19th St. Standing out in the cold I remember him looking at me, with my roomates around and telling the officer that he met me at the Lanche and I invited him to stay. The officer looked at me I I responded, with tongue firmly planted in my cheek and fingers crossed, "I am not even old enough to be in the Lanche"

#2. Walked into the Lanche 2 years after graduation for a beer or 2. The owner was still behind the bar, took one look at me, reached up to the rack and pulled MY mug off and said, "I believe you left this behind" YIKES

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

phaedruson, you said, "You learned what the Lanche was before you heard where chris farley lived."

I went to MU at the same time as Chris Farely and I thought the Lanche was where he lived. At least, I usually saw him there.

Anonymous said...

1) I will ALWAYS remember forgetting the time while talking to a "pretty" face in the crowd at the Lanche while leaning against the jukebox, to suddenly find a naked man at my feet as the first in the procession of sliders made their way across the floor from the Men's room.

2) Taking my soon to be bride on a tour of my old stomping grounds in Milwaukee. We stopped by the 'Lanche she couldn't beleive the 'Lanche was the place to be and she refused all beverages.

3) A few nights before graduation in 91. A bunch of the graduating Phi Kapps took their parents on a "Pub Crawl" down Wells. When we got to the 'Lanche, one parents' shoe was lost in the crowd when it stuck to the floor and the rest of the parents called it a night after peering in for a look.


inghammer said...

'Lanch Memories
1. Before ever getting to Marquette my Orthodontist (MU Dentistry Grad who had to be about 50 at the time) said "Don't wear your retainer to the 'Lanche."

2. A very very drunk Curtis trying to chug a RWB I handed to him, getting about half way done, then then blowing chow all over the place. I promptly handed him another RWB.

3. Counting pennies with Brad S to pay for our RWB's after a partiularly tough final at about 11AM.

Anonymous said...

The 'Lanche was already legendary in'69. I remember it as a shabby college bar with a fringe of derelicts passing through. Lenny's Tap on State Street was a great establishment that also succumbed to corporate urban renewal. The education received at Lenny's was even better. Their clientle was the social underclass of derelicts and professional drinkers, not the amateur college fellows. The few students that ventured in there learned from the pros and were occassional witness to some sublime entertainment.

Anonymous said...

I can't say I was a frequent guest at the Lanche (Murphy's and O'D's, without question), but certainly 2nd the reverie to "Old Wells Street". I visited the campus for the first time since about 1993 and the re-decoration does lend itself to the "you can't go home again" adage. But from what I recall, the Lanche was famous for two oppositional, yet bold pasttimes - naked beer slides and smashing Red, White, and Blues (is this stuff sold outside of Milwaukee and, if so, to whom?) against an adjacent wall. For the life of me, I can't recall being at the Lanche when both practices were operational at the same time.

Unknown said...

Soon after graduating in '84, I took a friend of mine visiting from out of town to the 'lanche.

We weren't in the bar for more than 5 minutes, drinking some RW&B's when an ornery Wells Street drunk stumbles in, talks smack and draws the wrath of the bar tender who jumps over the bar with a mini baseball bat. He goes to town, whacking the bum a few times in what can only be called a gross over-reaction. I guess bar tending at the 'lanche isn't good for the psyche.

My friend was stunned by what he had witnessed. Nobody else batted an eye. It was just another David Lynch moment at the weirdest watering hole in Wisconsin.

Anonymous said...

What a classic. Miss that bar and the disgusting bathrooms. Way too many late druken nights and great hook-ups. I just came back after 16 years away and the place is just not the same without some of the old holes. Loved ODs as well. Oh well times are changing...once MU took away he Warriors it was all downhill.

Anonymous said...

I just started a new job the same day as a few others. Of course my mug is in my office. A girl walks in and sees it and says "My father used to own the Avalanche." Oh yeah! I just went to her wedding and met her father and brother. They no longer want to kick me out, now they want to buy me drinks. Awesome! Great guys who miss the bar like you wouldn't believe. The topper? When I was introduced to the owner of Wales on Wells.

Kevin Buckley said...

(cough) I live across the street from Mr. Wales. I'll have him send you over some cheesy fries.

boyeewunda said...

Im looking to purchase a lanche mug. Can anyone help me out?


San Diego Momma/Two Funny Brains said...

I was a 'Lanche girl (after starting at OD's first). I graduated in 1990 and will never forget my 'Lanche education.

Johnnyonthespot said...

The 'lanche' was always where we wound up at closing time. When you got sick of the pretentious preps at the gym and needed a change of scenery or struck out at Grunts, the 'Blanche' beckoned . Long live the memories-thw smells, the throwing and breaking of bottles and the blasting music punctuated by the loud laughter!

Todd C said...

The lanche was my go to bar from 80-84. $1.00 for 32 ounces of Special Ex on Thursday nights? Who could beat that.

Jeff Beder said...

I tended there from 83 to 86 mostly daytimes: The regulars were: Jimmy Long, Greenie,Bobby? the swamper was Jerry (he reminded me of Shnieder from ONe day at a time, I do remember one night Leeroy airmaster sliding on the bar p laying his Steve Cohen harmonica, I tended with George, Rick the bouncer, Steve,and Mitch, Ritchie ran Wales. Father what's his name would come in for a pint or the party guys at midnight loading up on goodies, 50 cent RWB's great juke box Should I stay or should I go???

Richard Radbil said...

Father Brinks a.k.a Father Drinks.
My wife and I owned Wales on Wells from its start in 1978 to its sale in 1993.
You have a great memory.