Smile Politely

Last call at Mike N Molly’s

Mike N Molly’s is undergoing some changes — big changes — very soon.

MNMs has existed in this location — 105 N. Market Street — since 1999. The bar, which has one of the best, if not the best, beergarden in town, will certainly be missed greatly. Live music, comedy, trivia, and everything else in between — MNMs has been a part of it in some capacity when it comes to culture and nightlife in Champaign.

Rumblings have been going around, surely — and I spoke with longtime owner and operator Mike Murphy, whom most know by simply “Murph”, about the decision, what comes next, and shares a ton of stories about the joint with us for you to see.

Here’s what he has to say.

“Back before some dingus broke the top level off the fountain” — Murph

Smile Politely: Why did you choose to put Mike N Molly’s up for sale after so many years of being in the bar biz?

Mike Murphy: Age, and profit… The first increasingm and the other decreasing.

It’s mainly the age thing, though. I am used to marginally profitable years, but at my age I really have to pay attention to where my nest egg is.

I really like the idea of being in bed at 10 p.m., although I have great disdain for the morning sun, it’s so judgmental… I hate sunrises, always have. That’s a big reason I got into this business. So, I’ll have some adjusting to do. As much as I love the patrons and the fun times, I have also become increasingly uncomfortable in loud crowded spaces. Yep, as they say, If IT’S too loud, you’re too old. That’s me. It sounds cliché, but “it’s time”.

SP: After the sale is complete, will the property continue to be “Mike N Molly’s”?

Murphy: While the new owners have the right to use it for a short time, I don’t expect that they will. I will retain ownership of the sign skins, and  all the pens and matchbooks. [Laughs] The sale will close at the end of May, but I haven’t fixed on a “Last Day” date yet. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for that.

SP: Who is buying the property?

Murphy: CMT will be the new owners. When I put the property on the market, they made the highest and most solid offer.

Chef Ra mural by Langston Allston, photo by Justine Bursoni.

SP: What are some of your favorite memories of owning and operating MNMs?


Artists: Robbie Fulks, Los Straightjackets, Those Darn Accordions, Davina Sowers!! CHEF RA!!

The moment after the last patron leaves on a busy night, working with all my very favorite people in the world,

St Patty’s Day corned beef and cabbage (sorry not this year) and soaking my rye bread in the juice in the bottom of the chafers,

My late sister Kathy coming to decorate on St Patty’s Day,

Throwing t-shirts into the crowd back when beer companies used to give them away like toilet paper, 


The night Centaur played on a July 3rd, and we had a huge chunk of dry ice and I fogged the stage with the dry ice a garden hose hooked to the water heater… and later realized I had soaked Bob’s wedge speakers (oops), they played “Comfortably Numb” as clouds and lightning creeped up from the West… it looked SO COOL!! And then they had to load out in the rain while a dozen of us held up a tarp over the stage. GO TARP UNION!!

The OLD Mike N Molly’s with Mang… same kinda thing… lots of dry ice fog, but then we realized the floor was soaked and we were worried about electrocution from all the wires on the floor. We lived.

The dart room at the old MNMs.


Luther Wright and the Wrongs performing Pink Floyd’s The Wall in bluegrass.

Abe Froman Project

Spray paint and hip hop shows — thanks, Harsh.

Prairie Jam!!!

Doing Bleacher Bums on the stage.

Archeology students using a Speak Easy party to educate us about our downtown.

The Ra Mural, thank you, Langston Allston!!!


Carnivale De Bauche!!

Reggae Nights.


Movies on the wall in Brick-O-Vision.

Werewolf Cemetery.

Pygmalion Lit Readings.

Bonesstock with Grandkids playing, Shades cooking, and me out front, napping in my car with the windows down and feet on the dashboard.

All the Mustache contests!!! But especially the one where Cara Maurizi played Amber Alert (my stalker), and the one where we had a bathing suit portion, and Jack Osborn, who was playing a zombie just zombie-walked on stage in a suit with the mantra “BRAINS” and when the host insisted he needed a swim suit, he seemed to just pull a string, and his pants came down… it was HILARIOUS!!

Too long to tell here, but The Abe Froman show where Martin McFarland said “my boogaloo has a first name, and it’s Oscar” in a thick brogue.

Coming into the bar after Larry Love had hired Mike Litchford to do door. Mike and I had never met, and I tried every excuse to not show him my ID and not pay the cover, and he busted me at each attempt until he saw my ID… The look on his face was priceless. He was so good.

Same Mike Litchford, on a PACKED NYE night, busting one girl for using a fake ID. She looked A LOT like the picture, but he remembered having seen the same ID… TWO HOURS and a hundred people earlier… I was so impressed. RIP brother.

Wrestling with the doormen after close, until I dislocated a shoulder, sort of wasn’t fun  after that.

Pants optional Tuesdays (in summer after the bars closed), how the beer garden looked when there was gonna be a wedding.

The Roast Mindy Manolakes hosted for my 40th birthday!!! I am SO lucky, Matt Fear and Katie Prosise didn’t know me as well back then.

The roof replacement… man did the old one leak, and bad…

Hauling an AC compressor up a 35 foot ladder, with a rope, between me and Steve Rogers… OK… maybe that actually sucked.

Playing dominoes at the old MNMs with Dave Shoresman.

Moving into the New MNMs… that was an exciting time.

The Yelp review that complained about a homeless guy living in an outhouse out front… btw, there was NEVER an outhouse out front.

Meeting Earl (my dog), when he came in with Sharlie Ahmed.

Karaoke Nights!!

Trivia Nights!!

Paid In Beer Productions!!!

Watching the Downtown evolve.

Watching Fireworks from the roof.

Driving drunk patrons home.

Belly and Sabrina randomly finding me, on foot, stumbling home drunk… in the middle of some unlit neighborhood, over a mile from home, and driving me the rest of the way.

Finding Mike Coulter, on foot, stumbling home drunk, looking like he was going to curl up in the bushes in front of Beckman.

Walking up behind Matt Talbott and playing with his nipples, and then he turned around… and it wasn’t Matt Talbott. That was a little hard to explain.

Shelley trying to do a “pussy drop” but actually doing a “face plant”

Pranking Devin Atkins with the REALLY COOL portrait Joanna Troutman made of me.

Pranking Devin, in general.

Hoeffleur texting every week to ask if he was DJing that weekend

A certain patron, who knows who she is, flashing me her boobs on Mardi Gras many years ago. While I haven’t seen them since, I am sure they are still awesome.

Dancing on the bar with Ward Gollings on my 40th birthday.

Coming together after 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. Hearing from Val Stafford that she had made it out!!

The Soft Ball team!! They will still be representing us this Spring, go support them!!!

Learning to imitate Todd Nelson’s voice.

So many times Kenneth didn’t see things in plain sight or hear me yelling his name that I almost nicknamed him “Tommy”.

Patrick, underage, hiding his beer from me.

Taking Mel to the ER for a workmans comp injury and them asking me if I wanted a tox screen… [laughs]

Surfabilly Freakout Surf parties.

That WPGU ad “105 N Market St, 105 N Market St, 105 N Market St”.

Walking an ATF officer through my basement after overhearing him talking to a friend of mine in another bar say that they suspected we had a weapons cache in the basement!!! SERIOUSLY??

Driving Nathon Westerman home, and him insisting the whole way that I was driving the wrong way. Then, still not sure when i pulled into his drive way, until his girlfriend came out and started yelling at him…. oh yeah, this is my house.

Oh..and only 2 covert fails in 19 years over both places!!

I wrote down a couple more, but they’re probably best left to telling over a game of euchre.

So many more…

But most of all Shelley Carter, Patrick Edwards, Jim Creason, Devin Atkins, Melody Ensinger, Ellen Hurd, Bob Henne, Jimmie Myer, Amanda Bloomfield, Kenneth Weatherford, Kelsey Parker, Kyle McCloud, Brian Wolfe, Sharlie Ahmed, Isaac Arms, Seth Fein, Boswell Hutson, Trevor Dowdy, Larry Thompson, Rob Meyer, JK Murch, Mike Litchford, Troy Stanger, Ryan Walker, QuizMaster Chris, Kim Furgeson… but not Joel Spencer, cuz screw that guy [laughs]. Love you brother.

Meeting Nicole Philyaw and getting to be best buddies!

The love and support of all my patrons and staff when my sister, and each of my parents, passed away.


I am not moving away, and I am not quite set to retire, so feel free to offer me a job.

So, I hope to continue to keep making memories at Mike N Molly’s for the next few months. While we will be running down the variety of the inventory, we will make sure to have the staples (Guinness, PBR, Jameson) until the last day. So please come and help us mark an end of an era.

Cheers friends,

P.S. Molly sends her regrets that she won’t be able to get back before we close.

Mike N Molly’s in 2013, photo by Sean O’Connor.


So that much we know from the owner himself. Surely, more information to come about what will happen post-MNMs. As he mentions, property has been sold to CMT, which owns and operates many businesses and restaurants in Champaign-Urbana, most notably neighbor Seven Saints, Jupiter’s, The Accord, Cowboy Monkey, Barrelhouse 34, Guido’s and more.

It was a good run, and we’re gonna miss it.

Obviously, this article was purposefully edited just slightly, as to provide Murph the ability to tell his stories in his own words, thus some formatting might look a little different than it normally would. That’s fine by us.

Executive Editor

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