By late afternoon the bar was still packed.
The line to get in wrapped around the building. Inside, people waded through spilt drinks and empty cups. Music blared. Words were slurred. By early evening, after a day of cold rain, the floor of the back patio was a muddy puddle. Most did not mind. Some, however, lost stamina and stumbled out of the bar.
This is the unofficial — yet widely recognized — open-to-close day, an event that takes place on days when students do not have class, at Kilroy’s on Kirkwood.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day always draws a crowd, and this Monday was no exception.
During the 2017 MLK Day open-to-close — known as “#MLKO2C” on social media — hundreds of IU students spent their days at Kilroy’s. The bar opened at 11 a.m. and closed at 3 a.m. Open-to-close participants were required to buy something, either food or a drink, every hour if they want to stay at the bar.
Many IU students participate on Martin Luther King Jr. Day because it’s a Monday near the beginning of a semester with no classes. Students also often do open-to-close the Monday after graduation as a last hurrah and to say goodbye to the Bloomington bars.
Participants aspire to make it through the day without getting hungover or getting sick from too much booze.
By 4:45 p.m. Alex Zoumbaris, an IU senior, said he was feeling confident. He had been at Kilroy’s since 11 a.m. and was on his sixth gin and tonic.
“You have to buy a drink every hour!” said he, giddy and excited about closing.
IU senior Dylan Karnedy said he wanted to do open-to-close because it’s an IU tradition.
“It’s always been on my bucket list,” he said.
Karnedy is part of a group of Phi Kappa Tau brothers who came prepared for open-to-close with a television, Xbox and six games.
Another group brought a deck of cards and their phone chargers, which hung from the ceiling.
Even though the event is unofficial, Kilroy’s, on Twitter as @KilroysKOK, advertised the day of drinking with a cryptic yet simple #MLKO2C hashtag.
Students who intended on going tweeted at Kilroy’s and were successfully retweeted. Kilroy’s kept the public updated with Snapchat stories from the Kilroy’s Snapchat account. At 6 p.m. Kilroy’s tweeted a saved snap video of the back patio crammed with people with the MLK geotag placed over the video.
By 7:30 — hour eight — the bar had emptied out and the Kilroy’s social media posts died down.
Zoumbaris said he thought he was on drink eight or nine, but he had lost count. Half of his group had gotten bored and left.
“Morale is low,” Zoumbaris said.
At least he was saving money because of the $1 bottom-shelf Wells deal, he said.
Karnedy, the IU senior for whom open-to-close was a bucket list item, said he and his friends were still steadily drinking one drink per hour to “prevent hangovers.”
“You keep drinking,” he said.
The group of Phi Tau brothers had put away the Xbox because the bar had gotten too rowdy. One brother, IU junior Skyler Booth, brought his laptop out and was doing his informatics homework. By this point, they were committed.
At another table a student opened up a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.”
By 9 p.m., only a few dozen remained. It was unclear whether or not Kilroy’s would provide a tangible trophies of accomplishments to those who open-to-close; however, along the wall going up the stairs are portraits of IU alumni inside self-decorated frames indicating that they had successfully opened-to-closed.
“Hopefully I’ll get my picture on the wall,” Karnedy said, “but if not it will just be a fun memory.”
By 9:30 p.m., the bartenders were still hard at work. One bartender said he expected roughly 50 of the hundred participants to last til 3 a.m. Two bartenders said they had not heard Martin Luther King Jr.‘s name mentioned all day.
For IDS live coverage of #MLKO2C, check out our Snapchat story at @idsnews.