When senior Coltan Parker thinks about The Burg’s Bar and Grill, he remembers dancing on the tables at the Rootabaga Jazz Festival last spring during the Lowdown Brass Band’s set.
“The band was marching around the actual building itself and it was like a big parade. It was just so much energy and so much fun.”
The Burg’s Bar and Grill, which many students still know by its previous name McGillacuddy’s, hosted Knox Jazz Nights and the Rootabaga Jazz Festival since 2005. The venue was damaged by a fire two weeks after the Knox jazz department moved its performances to Fat Fish Pub this summer.
“It’s like a one-two punch,” Parker said. “The change can be good–it’s kind of exciting to be in a new venue Ñ but it’s sad to lose McGillacuddy’s. And then it’s also sad to see McGillacuddy’s burnt up. It’s like, will we ever be able to go back and feel what it’s like to be in McGillacuddy’s again?”
According to Associate Professor of Music Nikki Malley, the transition to Fat Fish was not a result of any problems with McGillacuddy’s. She said that she had been looking for a more music-friendly space for several years and decided to make the move over the summer.
“The time felt right,” she said. “It absolutely was not a response to any kind of problem.”
Malley and student performers have already noticed improvements at the new venue, noting that Fat Fish has acoustics and lighting that better suit music performance, in addition to a more appropriate stage for the band to perform on.
“We immediately noticed that people were listening, people were engaged, people were attentive, and as a performer, it’s much more comfortable to be able to make music in a place where you know you can be heard,” Brian Tanaka ‘15 said.
For Malley, the decision to move Jazz Nights to Fat Fish was not an easy one. She had established connections with employees at The Burg’s Bar and Grill and knew that taking the event elsewhere would hurt the bar’s business. She denied having any knowledge about the potential for a fire to occur in the structure prior to moving.
The fire at McGillacuddy’s began the morning of Friday, Aug. 21. Police reports show that officers responded to the fire at 1:51 a.m.
Galesburg Fire Chief Tom Simkins said that the fire began on the second floor of the building near the kitchen. He refused to comment on possible causes of the fire and said that it remains unidentified. The department currently does not believe the fire was caused by arson.
“We’re just not seeing anything right now that points in that direction. We’re not totally ruling it out,” Simkins said.
The Galesburg Fire and Police Departments have been gathering evidence from the building, interviewing witnesses and people involved and reviewing security footage from cameras that were in the bar. Simkins said the department plans to distribute a press release later this week with more information about the fire.
No known people were injured as a result of the fire.
Keith Straitiff, the owner of The Burg’s Bar and Grill, has indicated that he plans to rebuild the bar. Straitiff was unavailable for comment.
Simkins said that rebuilding will be intensive, as the fire consumed the majority of the bar’s roof. The building did not have a sprinkler system in place, which he said would have reduced the damage significantly.
“We have a building where if they had a sprinkler system in, they’d be open today. I can almost say that positively,” he said.
Parker said he thought The Burg’s Bar and Grill was the nicest bar in town and hopes they are able to open in the future.
Malley’s fondest memories in the building revolved around the return of generations of alumni for the Rootabaga Jazz Festival.
“Clearly the program, but particularly that place and what happens around a Thursday night at Jazz Night has meant so much to so many people,” she said. “It’s about the community that those people create, but it’s also about the place. A place that people return to over and over again.”
Reporter Erika Riley contributed to this report