Kopp’s Korner Is Always a Good Idea When in Alton

click to enlarge This isn’t a place to get fancy with a drink order. - Thomas Crone
Thomas Crone
This isn’t a place to get fancy with a drink order.

For people who’ve gone to Kopp’s Korner (838 East Seventh Street, Alton, Illinois; 618-465-9833) for years, the thrill is probably long gone, but for newbies, the old “ring a bell and we’ll decide if we’ll let you in” system is, yes, a little bit of a kick. Another wrinkle comes with it: To save yourself the trouble of the buzzer, you can buy a key for $5, giving you a lifetime membership in the club. Though you can’t come in and help yourself to a bottle of Bud when the place is closed, there’s not a lot of worry about that anyway, since the bar’s open pretty much all day long. It starts serving at 9 a.m. and keeps the drinks coming until at least midnight, dependent on crowd.

Kopp’s decor is that of a classic dive bar, which you’ll probably realize the second you drive up and spot the neon Busch sign illuminating the corner. Inside, you’ll spy a whole lot of racing signage and a bank of video machines along one wall. Some folks park there, sip at sodas and never leave. Others might hanker for a smoke; they’re sent outside, where a cool, clubhouse-like set up is just a couple of steps and a closed door away. Unlike other bars in the vicinity that flaunt Illinois’ no-smoking rule, Kopp’s plays it true and the air inside is breathable as a result.

As bars go, this isn’t a place to get fancy with a drink order. You’ll probably wanna order a domestic longneck and a shot, the basics. They’ll be served to you by one of three bartenders who work marathon shifts, the trio soaking up all the bar’s many open hours.

Running down a list of the bar’s faves, Shanna Lawson, on duty during a recent weeknight, mentions Bud Light and Coors Light, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, Malibu and Jaeger Bombs. Interestingly, a Three Olives Vodka called Loopy also has fans. Also interesting: Kopp’s might be the only bar in America still specializing in Buttery Nipples.

Pointing over to the corner of the room, she notes that a relative, bartender Ashley Green, is also in-house. Given a few dollars for the jukebox, Green sings along to some tracks; it must be said, she’s quite good. The vibe before this moment had been pretty calm, a reality police show quietly playing on the TVs, a few drinkers drifting between the bar and the smoking deck. Suddenly, the vocals give the joint a little bit of life.

“We act crazy, laugh, entertain,” says Lawson. “Customers come from the bars on Broadway, then bounce and come here, or vice versa. We’re having a good time here, laughing, joking, making you feel like family.” You don’t even have to buy the key to get that impression. But it sure doesn’t hurt.

This review is part of our 2019 Bar Guide. Find out our other favorite St. Louis bars here.

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