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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Midtown rejoices as Balls Bar bounces back


After a summer hiatus, Balls Bar looked like its old self Thursday.

Dozens of students and residents flooded the small Midtown bar, basking in cheap drinks and spray-painted walls for the first time in several months.

The bar, located at 1716 W. University Ave., had been closed since Spring due to “administrative issues,” said McCabe Harrison, a lawyer who was appointed to oversee the property following the 2013 death of William Coville Chick III, the bar’s former owner.

The management and staff have been overhauled, Harrison said, but no other changes are planned.

Harrison, a UF alumnus who graduated in 2009, said Balls has become more popular since he was a college student --- and that excitement was palpable Thursday night.

“I think that Balls is more of a Gainesville institution now than it was when I was an undergraduate here,” he said, “so people were really eager to have it back.”

When Balls closed, Cat McCarty, a 21-year-old UF biology senior, was upset her favorite bar had disappeared, she said.

Since the beginning of Fall, the Midtown vacancy grew even more pronounced, she said.

On Thursday afternoon, McCarty’s friends at the neighboring Salty Dog Saloon sent her a text message with the good news, she said.

When she got there at 8 p.m., the crowd was small. But as the hours passed, throngs of people packed the small bar, she said.

“It was my favorite bar in Midtown,” she said. “I’m glad it’s back.”

Tyler Mosley, a 21-year-old UF business management senior, visited Balls twice over the weekend. Although he was happy the bar had reopened, Mosley said he felt disappointed to see the bar’s old staff — most of whom were his friends — had either left or been replaced.

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When it closed, some began to spread rumors that Balls had been caught serving alcohol to minors, said Carlo Valencia, a 28-year-old UF alumnus. He said he enjoyed the bar because its prices could never be beat, although sometimes it would get so packed he could not even reach a bartender.

Despite now living in Ecuador, Valencia said he would be back at Balls in November for the upcoming UF football game against the University of South Carolina.

“I’m so excited to be able to go to Balls again,” he said.

He said the bar, with its large crowds and often muggy climate, was the pinnacle of the college experience.

“Some people love, and others don’t love, Balls,” he said. “I personally don’t care about getting sweaty in Balls, but some people might not like that idea.”

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