Over the past decade, Irvine has somehow, amazingly shed its reputation as the most Stepford of Orange County’s cities (you still have to pick between five shades of beige for your house paint, though). But every once in a while, the ghost of Don Bren rises from its crypt to try and force the master-planned ‘burb back into Boringsville. And that’s where you can notch this sad development: UC Irvine’s beloved Anthill Pub is closing at the end of the month after 26 years.
The folks who run it announced the sad news on Facebook earlier this month, but I’m just getting around to the news because I don’t drink beer. But here’s what I do know: it originally opened in 1991 and was probably the first bar in Orange County to stock craft brews—even back then, Anthill Pub had Anchor Steam on tap. Its liquor license was long owned by the school’s Associated Graduate Students, which meant that all the profits went directly to helping students on campus. It closed for about a year in 2006 during a massive UCI reconstruction, but the university then was committed to giving it back to the students who ran it. General manager Scott Winterstein has been with the Anthill Pub since at least 2002, when he graciously tolerated Weekly legends Steve Lowery and Anthony Pignataro for a review. And its Tuesday-night trivia contests (held by Play Pop Quiz) are probably the biggest in Orange County.
Instead of sticking with this institution, UC Irvine administrators decided to go with some corporate losers and granted them the 10-year contract that Anthill Pub staff thought would surely be renewed for them. “There were two competing bids; one from a restaurant group that operates mainly in airports—they wanted a ridiculous amount of money from the school upfront to remodel,” said a source who requested anonymity. “The second was from Aramark, the giant food service corporation that runs everything else on campus.”
UCI has yet to announce which corporate loser won the contract.
Whatever will replace Anthill Pub will debut sometime in September. It might even have the same name. But make no mistake, fam: that’ll be a pale imitator of the original. In the meanwhile, go knock back a couple of brews before it’s closed. And curse Don Bren’s nasty, nasty name just for the hell of it.