Smokes – the Pennstitution

By Mark Sullivan, C’93

Here are some of my memories of Smokes.

Smokey Joe's Smokes at Penn

The inside of Smokey Joe’s, photo courtesy of Mark Sullivan

Raid by the Liquor Control Board (LCB)

During the first semester of our freshman year, it was still possible to get into Smokes with a Penn student ID and other questionable forms of identification. The Pennsylvania liquor control board began to crack down, and so we had to be tougher with ID’s. I began bouncing at the end of my freshman year. Members of the wrestling team/ATO had proven to be adept at handling the imposing Penn student population. As you may recall, the uniform for all Smokey Joe’s employees – bartenders, wait staff and bouncers – was a long sleeve oxford with a tie that was tucked in. Many a night, someone would show up without a tie, so there were extra ties (many of them very ugly) that were kept behind the upstairs and downstairs bars. One night during our sophomore or junior year, the LCB raided Smokey Joe’s. They blocked the front and back doors, made everyone exit one by one and checked their ID’s. Some enterprising (and underage) patrons put on some of the extra ties that were behind the bar and tried to pass themselves off as employees. Unfortunately, they wore the ties over polo shirts, baggy sweaters or sweatshirts, and the LCB was not convinced.

Joe Whelpy at Smokes

Joe Whelpy at Smokes, photo courtesy of Mark Sullivan

Erin Express

The Erin Express is a pub crawl held around St. Patrick’s day throughout University City and Center City. School buses drive a loop to each bar that participates in the Erin Express. One year, one of the buses pulled up to Smokey Joe’s and the bus driver went in to use the restroom. One of the passengers grew impatient and drove the bus to the next bar.

Smokey Joe's owners Pat and Paul Ryan

Pat and Paul Ryan, owners of Smokey Joe’s, photo courtesy of Mark Sullivan

21st Birthday Celebrations

I learned the real names of several of our classmates on their 21st birthdays. Most of the birthday celebrations were benign, but a few got out of hand, including one male celebrant who ended up riding a bicycle naked in the downstairs bar at the end of the night.

Sink or Swim flyer for Smokey Joe's Smokes

Sink or Swim flyer photo courtesy of Mark Sullivan

Nearby Shooting

By our junior year, Smoke‘s had installed the video camera and microphone to prove that each person admitted had been carded and stated their name and date of birth. Very late in the Spring of that year, I was working the door with another bouncer (who shall remain nameless). It was a very warm evening and the windows and front door were open. Smoke‘s was pretty empty – it may have even been the week of final exams. Just as the other bouncer and I were carding two women who walked in together, gun shoots rang out on the corner of 40th and Walnut just outside of McDonald’s. The other bouncer and I could see some flashes of light and the car with the shooter speed away. I remember the strong smell of gunpowder lingering in the humid air. The other bouncer and I excitedly recounted the events to everyone inside Smoke‘s. We explained how brave we had been and how we had sprung into action and protected the two women who we were checking for ID by removing them from harm’s way. The only problem was that the video recorder had been running and when they played back the tape, it showed the other bouncer and I cowering behind the two women patrons when we heard the gunshots and using them as human shields. Management played that tape every night for the following week to everyone else’s amusement.

Smokey Joe's the Pennstitution

The Pennstitution – photo by Mark Sullivan

Ken Kweder at Smokey Joe's

Ken Kweder plays at Smokes, photo courtesy of Mark Sullivan

What was your favorite bar on campus? Do you remember hanging out at Smokes? If you have memories, share them in the comments below.

Penn Class of 1993 25th Reunion Countdown

The weekend of December 22 – 23, marked 20 weeks until the 25th Reunion of the Penn Class of 1993 (May 11 – 14, 2018)! Meet us at the Button!

Register NOW to attend our 25th Reunion!

Join us we count down the weeks to our reunion #93tothe25th:

  • Do you have old photos or mementos from our time at Penn? Photos of Spring Fling? Football at Franklin Field? Classes at DRL? We are taking a trip down memory lane and would love for you to share your memories with our class in a future post. Please email us!
  • Follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.
  • Classmates are invited to join our Facebook and LinkedIn groups.
  • Donate to The Penn Fund in honor of our reunion! We want to break the 25th reunion participation giving record and every gift matters!

Book Your Hotel Room for Alumni Weekend NOW!

The Marriott Downtown (where we had a Penn 1993 and a Penn Alumni room block) is sold out for Alumni Weekend. There are alternative hotels near by. We recommend booking ASAP! Please see our class website for additional details.

Penn Class of 1993 25th Reunion #93tothe25th



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