"I'm convinced that this place is an absolute detriment to the community in every respect."
These were the words that liquor board chairman Thomas Ward used to condemn Favorites Pub, the beloved York Road watering hole known to Loyola University students as Craig's. The bar, infamous for serving minors, was shuttered last Thursday following a three-hour kangaroo court.
Craig's was, without a doubt, the worst bar I've ever been to. Like any Loyola student, I went there many times during my tenure, sometimes with my fraudulent California ID and often without identification at all, in the process developing a sense of respect for the debauched dive bar.
From the outside, the bar looks harmless—cheap for sure, but harmless—but inside, Craig's is shellacked with piss and vomit. The main floor is decrepit and seemingly lacking joists—it bows as if it were built by pilled-up frat pledges. The farcical sign out front bills Favorites as a place where "good food, good friend's (sic)" are to be had. I remember getting stoned and propping up at the top bar one night before 11 p.m. and feeling a real sense of dread for any out-of-towner yuppie that stopped in looking for a greasy meal and "Cheers" charm.
Craig's was a proving ground, inasmuch as these evolutionary constructs apply to novice drinkers. It’s the first bar I ever went to.
As an 18-year-old one month into my freshman year, I took a cab up York Road with my floormates. We were going to a 7 p.m. rugby drink-up—a postgame Natty Light blood feast with unchecked doors. Once inside, meat-necked ruggers patrolled with spillingly full pitchers over their heads. All you had to do was give a signal and they'd fill up your plastic cup. In the basement, pairs of revelers reached under crusty furniture to retrieve lost pingpong balls, and upstairs, a chorus of increasingly drunken athletes yawped shanties before ritually drinking out of a leather boot.
It was a direct-to-DVD "American Pie" sequel.
Over the years, Craig's would become the place my friends and I would trek to in snowstorms, the glamorless stalwart where we'd hop the porch railing instead of waiting in line. It was where my roommate, after scoring his first rugby try, danced naked on the bar with a sombrero over his cock. It was where my virginal best friend had her first kiss our junior year. Where my editor at The Greyhound smoked a joint with a blearily drunk Tom Green. Where I shit-facedly reconciled with my ex in line for a Miller Light. Where I watched my stargazing classmate rap the now-infamous line "the festival at Craig's was the shit, no doubt" on a makeshift stage. Where Craigular-cum-bartender-cum-"Real World"-competitor Pete Connolly shot reel for his casting tape, proving to MTV execs that he was the kind of self-destructive archetype primetime covets.
Craig's was a detriment to the community in that York Road residents didn't deserve the weekly parade of intoxicated teens barfing and fucking on their lawns, but to the Loyola community, it was a part of our informal "cura personalis." Loyola is a puritannical fun vacuum, a banal and retribution-happy institution in the most byzantine sense, and Craig's was its depraved alter ego.
In the wake of the Ward's condemnation, current Loyola students and alumni gathered on social media to grieve the loss of their prized shit-hole. The Baltimore Business Journal's Jenn Ladd—a former City Paper staffer and my classmate from Loyola—was the singular professional reporter devoting copy to the hearing. In our tenure as undergrads, Ladd was staunchly anti-Craig's, as were many of the university's more discerning students, but her dedication to covering the bar's collapse denotes a cosmic connection to the York Road dive that even abstinent Greyhounds feel.
You either defined yourself by your enthusiasm for Craig's, or you defined yourself against it. Either way, you recognized its gravity.
As undergrads, we always knew Craig's could only last four years before it was hastily taken over by the next wave of children, but we'd always assumed the final conclusion would be more cinematic. We'd envisioned an EDM bass drop whipping up a dance party that finally caved the floor or a SWAT-style raid that ended with owner Jeffrey Evans being carted out on racketeering charges.
In the end, Craig's couldn't have survived. The pub's continued defiance coupled with Evans' O.J. Simpson-like lack of self-awareness could only have ended one way. A Wild West is not a sustainable business model.
At 26, looking back at my many vodka-soaked nights at Craig's, I'm glad to have lived such an aberration. The circus that was Craig's Fest, senior mug night, and rugby drink-ups allowed me to purge glandfuls of pent-up fuckery and experience abject degeneration. I mourn its closing out of nostalgia, though the four years of estrangement have changed my perspective.
By the time Thursday's hearing rolled around, it had become clear that Craig's was never as innocent as we'd imagined. Though Craig's may have begun with the intention of allowing students some free space to experiment with vice, instead it became a breeding ground for alcohol poisoning and sexual assault. It had become a detriment in the most absolute sense, and once you reach that maxim, there is no backpedaling.
It ended as all unchecked hedonism does, with the harsh words of an old white bureaucrat—one whose intentions are better than we're willing to admit.