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DIZINNO: Loss of Angelo’s is a blow to campus character

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When I first heard of Angelo’s Pizza Restaurant & Bar closing, my immediate concern was pressing. “Great,” I thought. “Where will all the legions of under-‘ragers’ go now?”

To be honest, I was surprised McCormick Hall didn’t spontaneously combust when the news got out.

But then it occurred to me. This isn’t just a bar closing. Rather, one of the last places with character on campus has turned out the lights. The party is over.

Between renovation, remodeling, buyout and demolition, a variety of older Marquette properties and independent institutions have kicked the bucket in my mere four years here. As of mid-October, Angelo’s joins a list that includes: Jim Hegarty’s Pub, Ziggie’s Restaurant, George Webb, the 1212 Building, O’Hara Hall and the O’Donnell Hall cafeteria. Sensenbrenner Hall’s future is now in question after Eckstein Hall’s completion.

And how about the multitude of Wells Street bars closing as part of the 1990s transformation to chain restaurants and the Campus Town Apartments? I think Dorothy just told me I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

This makes it look like campus is becoming Marquette Business Park. The new era of Zilber and Eckstein Halls are complete and the Discovery Learning Complex is underway, but gone are the days of institutions and dives with history and a sense of character.

It makes you wonder what will be next. Maybe McCormick, also known as the “beer can,” will succumb to the perpetual rumor of its eventual demise.

Those former places weren’t new, shining, or key to attracting new students. But that’s what made them special.

Sifting through some archives from the Marquette Hilltop yearbook, even reporters in the ’90s lamented the closing of dives such as the Avalanche Superbar, O’Donohugh’s Irish Pub, Zziggomania and Guiliano’s. I think I’d heard numbers as high as 86 bars within a 10-block radius of campus during the ’80s. Now, just Caffrey’s Pub and Murphy’s Irish Pub remain standing.

Think of the variety with 86 bars, not just in terms of alcohol availability, but also of hangouts to create new memories with friends. Instead, what remains are the possible inadvertent consequences of an unofficial monopoly, price gouging and a stale atmosphere.

New buildings like Zilber are double-edged swords. They may be innovative and groundbreaking, but they have yet to establish their identity and landmark on campus.

At this month’s Father Wild Forum, outgoing University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild addressed higher education’s evil twin — higher education as a business — and where new acquisitions fit into the business strategy. Wild responded this way when a brave soul asked about the 800-pound gorilla in the room:

“Long term, we wanted control of the land,” Wild said. “We have some growing space for the university, and that’s a very strategic corner apart from where the (Alumni Memorial Union) is. We own almost all of that block.”

I understand this was a “strategic location” and, according to reports in the Tribune and University News Briefs, the owner of Angelo’s approached Marquette directly about the property. Fair enough.

But perception is everything, and the recent perception is that Marquette has done more to increase its ownership of properties than preserve prestigious landmarks. As a result, a number of popular bars and hangouts have faded away.

Doesn’t this only increase the so-called “Marquette bubble” if they and others are buying up all the properties? Does a university as a business detract from a university as a college atmosphere? Admittedly, those are two questions I haven’t seen answered in my Marquette career.

Ideally, new University President the Rev. Scott Pilarz will work to ensure Marquette preserves prestige in its character and not just academics.

But for now, I’ll raise a cold one to Angelo’s and all the other destinations of bygone that may never rise again. Cheers.

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