Since graduating from the UI with a political science degree in 1979, Michael Kelly’s business cards have read:
— Publisher, Entertainment Weekly
— CEO, The Weather Channel
— President, AOL Media
But none of those well-paying positions brought half the fun as his couple-bucks-an-hour job tending bar at the late, great Deluxe Lunch & Billiards as a junior and senior.
Campustown just hasn’t been the same since the 1996 closing of the Deluxe, whose fried Icelandic cod sandwiches were the stuff of legend.
“I don’t think there are too many places like it left in the world,” says Kelly ('79). “During the week, it was a local hangout frequented by bikers, students, faculty and Champaign residents — one of the few places on campus that locals hung out in.
“I was one of the ‘kid’ bartenders mixed in with a sitcom-worthy cast of full-time employees — Pearl and Jane, the waitresses, and Tom, the everything guy. It had a family feel fostered by the Flynns, who owned the joint.
“It was a quirky, quaint, welcoming hangout with lots of regulars. Most nights, it was pretty quiet. But on the weekends, it went wild. Why? World-famous fish sandwiches.”