Like most Bobcats I was saddened to learn about the fire on Union Street. Two of Athens’ favorite public establishments, Jackie O’s and The Union, were hit hard. It sounds like Jackie O’s will remain open in some limited capacity while it rebuilds. The Union as we know it “is no more,” according to its proprietors.
Here’s hoping the owners rebuild.
It’s hard to imagine Uptown without The Union.
When I was at Ohio University in the 1990s The Union was the alternative, grunge, dive, $1-for-a-Schlitz, indie music bar. Downstairs was for townies and regulars. Upstairs was literally for everyone.
For some students The Union was a stop on a shuffle. But for others it was the central organizing principle of their social lives. It was a place accepting of various fashions, scenes and lifestyles. It was smokey and dark, rough around the edges, yet tolerant. More so than a lot of places Uptown, it was a true melting pot.
The pretty people were at The Crystal and Pawpurr’s. The people who had tattoos and piercings and tattoos of piercings or didn’t care to judge the tattooed and pierced were at The Union. The Union gave the “goddamn independents” who exist outside of OU’s self-organizing social classes of greeks and jocks and bros and basics a place to drink and socialize and dance and sing. It was the definition of a proper dive bar as well as a place to see The Black Keys for-crying-out-loud.
Obviously I have fond memories of the place, and of all of them the most recent stands out.
Two years ago when my wife and I returned to Athens for a semester we attended a live performance of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” on the second floor. The room was packed. Everyone was dressed in drag and lingerie, the audience and cast blending together, singing and dancing in a buckshot blast of freak humanity.
It was loud. It was fun. It was weird.
It was The Union.
Photo via The Post