Love & Beer: Alice’s Place
by Alison Lysakowski
The drinks are perfect, the prices are good, and the environment is cozy. Alice’s Place survives despite the decline of many local neighborhood taverns over time. While revenue is a concrete means of keeping Alice’s Place alive, a deeper source seems to play a hand as well. That source is something I call love.
Before it was Alice’s Place, it was a tavern called Sardicas. Before that, it was a duplex. Before that, it was a grocery store. It was built in 1874:
It amazes me to be able to step so far back in time when I walk through the front door.
Ray Dill purchased the property in 1949. It was a retirement gift for his beloved wife Alice, who had worked at the Stag brewery that once existed in Belleville. They fixed it up within a year. “It was a good year,” says Ray.
Before Alice passed away in Nov. 2004, Ray promised her he would keep the tavern open for her. When I asked him what his favorite part of the tavern is, he told me that the people are. These facts alone compel me to go there. It is nice to find a place where the owner genuinely wants you there, and not just your wallet.
Belleville is known for its high volume of places to drink. Back in the early days of Alice’s Place, there were even more bars than today. There were also grocery stores on many corners. People used to walk within their own neighborhoods to purchase basic needs and drink at the bar. Alice’s Place is one of the few businesses from that time period that is still humming along. Anyone who visits can recognize it as a great place to pop in and relax, without the feeling of being rushed or ignored. The two barmaids, Maggie and Karen, made sure I was covered the whole time I was there. Sometimes there is live entertainment. It is a great place to go and chill for anyone over 21.
Back in the 1980’s, Ray and Alice would host awesome block parties. 36-year customer “Bill” says, “This place used to rock ‘n roll back in the day, always people coming and going.” There were music and wild game roasts. Ray would hunt from Iceland to Argentina, even bringing back a camel for the roasts at Alice’s. Along with that, there would be goose, duck, and other animals.
Also in the 1980’s, the back room at Alice’s was a political hotbed for local representatives. Local politicians were known to frequent and play poker there.
At the turn of the 20th century, there were over 100 taverns in Belleville. Today there are about 40. Some bars that were placed in the middle of downtown Main Street did not last long. I find it interesting that Alice’s Place does not give way to surrounding competition, holding steadily in the middle of a quiet neighborhood. What makes Alice’s special? I might have the answer. Ray Dill began this business for his wife, and continues even when she is gone, because he loves her. I think that the force of love can be far greater than odds and circumstances. Sometimes you just have to put your best foot forward and fulfill your promises.
230 North 11th St. Belleville, IL 62220
Special thank-you to Jacob Oliver, Sharon Egler, and John Elmore