Iconic downtown bar closing after 17 years.

The Whig, the iconic subterranean bar located at the intersection of Main and Gervais streets in downtown Columbia, will close later this year after a 17-year run.

Owners Phill Blair and Will Green announced on Thursday that the bar will be closing because its lease has not been renewed.

Developers have announced plans to build a hotel in the century-old building at 1200 Main St. where the Whig is located, and the massive construction project planned will make it impossible for business at the popular spot to go on, the owners say.

"We've been doing great business lately, and that is, honestly, the sore, sad spot in all of this," Blair told SC Biz News Thursday afternoon. "The Whig is busier than it's ever been, and we have to look at pumping the brakes on it."

The popular bar gained a wide following over the years because of its unique, darkened underground atmosphere, wide selection of beer and other drinks, and a menu that many locals said was among the best bar food in the Midlands. Signature items include a variety of sandwiches, smoked gouda mac-and-cheese and gravy fries.

"We kept the menu pretty much the same for as long as most of our customers can remember, only adding a few new things here and there," Blair said. "We really wanted to provide the items people wanted and made sure we were doing them the same way the customers always liked them."

Blair, named to the Columbia Regional Business Report's 2021 list of Icons and Phenoms because of his entrepreneurial success,started working at The Whig when it first opened in 2005 and became an owner in 2006. Since then, he said it's been a joy to not only watch the bar become a favorite with a diverse crowd of locals and visitors but also to see the evolution of Main Street.

"There wasn't anything going on down there at all when we opened, but the business has grown and developed a following, and so has Main Street," he said. "I think we're really seeing growth down here come to a critical point. It's busy...

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