Downstairs area of Standard Bar and Grill

By Roderick Diamond II
Medill Reports

Louisiana State University Tigers celebrated a glorious victory against the Clemson Tigers in the 2020 College Football Playoff finale in New Orleans Jan. 13.

Though the university is in Baton Rouge, a good 80-mile drive from New Orleans, that didn’t stop the LSU community from rejoicing. People and places all over the country were celebrating the Tigers fourth national championship in football.

It’s to the point where fellow Chicagoans joined in on the festivities on a chilly Monday night. Over 900 miles from New Orleans, the Standard Bar and Grill in Wicker Park bleeds purple and gold yearlong. The LSU-themed bar filled with fans who showed their support the night of the game.

Kayla Howard, a law student at DePaul, was one of the many people inside Standard Bar and Grill Monday night.

“ I’m from North Carolina but it’s fun and my friend’s sister goes to LSU for grad school and that’s how I found out about it,” Howard said.

The bar was laced with purple and gold balloons, lights, table covers and LSU memorabilia. The scenery of the bar matched the aurora of the patrons that walked in. Current owner Aaron Bilgin explained the relationship between the bar and the institution.

Standard Bar and Grill owner Aaron Bilgin. (Roderick Diamond/ Medill Reports)

“The bar has been hosting LSU games since 2013. Two of my managers were LSU alumni and, when I bought out the place, they said, ‘This is a great opportunity to continue,’” Bilgin said.

“When we hosted for the first time in 2018, I fell in love with fans and team because they are incredibly kind, friendly and a fun group. So, I decided to keep the LSU identity and we have been very successful. We are full every game and people love our daily specials,” Bilgin said.

Bilgin tries his best to make the place feel like home for LSU fans wherever they come from. He mentioned the annual crawfish buffet the bar hosts with crawfish brought in all the way from Louisiana. One of the specials on the menu for the national championship game was crawfish quesadillas.

Though the bar is known among the LSU community, it draws in more attention from news outlets and locals wanting to join in on the fun, especially after the team put their undefeated season on the line and retained it.

“It’s a happy overwhelmed. We love the attention. We love that the people recognize the place and have fun. We stopped taking reservations last week and we have people calling from Wisconsin saying, ‘I’m driving from Wisconsin. Can you help me [with a reservation]?’ The funny part is that we have a lot of people from out of town. It’s a good feeling since Chicago teams are not doing very well and it makes my employees and me very happy that we are hosting a team that cleared all the roads and never lost a game. It’s just an amazing feeling, we love LSU fans and I’m very confident that we are going to get the championship,” Bilgin said.

The place was a roller coaster ride of emotions during the four-hour game. After a 42-25 finish, the LSU team was crowned the champion. Confetti and free shots floated all over the place. Everyone including the staff, owner and patrons cheered countless shouts of “Geaux Tigers”.

Downstairs at the Standard Bar and Grill where LSU fans crowd during games.(Roderick Diamond II/ Medill Reports)