After 65 years of business, venerable bar PK’s up for sale


Isabel Miller | @isabelmillermedia

Paul “Tawl Paul” Frederick sings on April 15, 2018 inside PK’s.

By Isabel Miller, Photo and Multimedia Editor

Known for live music, cheap beer and good company, PK’s is a landmark in Carbondale.

As of July 1st, the bar, located at 308 S. Illinois Ave., is on the market for $425,000.

The listing of the bar follows the death of PK’s long-time owner and proprietor, Gwen Hunt, on June 9th of last year. The family has decided to list the bar for sale in settling the estate in order to move on to the next chapter of their lives.


PK’s is one of many prominent local businesses currently for sale in Carbondale. According to the Century 21 Commercial real estate website: Pagliai’s Pizza, Arnold’s Market, Carbondale Trophy, Hangar 9 and Fat Patties are also looking for new owners.

Originally known as Pizza King, PK’s was opened by Hunt and her husband Tom Hunt in 1955. According to Gwen Hunt in an interview with the Daily Egyptian in 2016, Pizza King was the first pizza restaurant in Carbondale. As more pizza parlors opened in the city, Pizza King stopped serving pizza and became a bar known simply as PK’s.

Casey Twomey, granddaughter of Hunt, says she hopes the new owner will carry on the business her grandmother invested much of her life in.

“I think that PK’s has a very unique place in Carbondale’s history, and I think with any change there can be a little bit of resistance, but I’m very optimistic. I hope we find a buyer that will embrace PK’s nostalgia and will continue the legacy that my grandmother left,” Twoney said.

Twoney said she is very appreciative to the PK’s family, including, “…employees, customers, representatives, everyone within our unit that has really supported my family and my grandmother through the years and us through this difficult time.”

According to the statement PK’s released on its Facebook page, PK’s is one of the longest surviving and thriving businesses in the history of Carbondale. The bar will celebrate its 65th anniversary Aug. 11.


PK’s has long been area musician Joe Swank’s “Carbondale bar.” Swank has been a customer of the bar since about 1995, when he played there with his first band, The MoJoDeans.

Swank says what makes PK’s special is indescribable.

“It’s the most diverse bar that I think I’ve ever been in, as far as every single kind of person is welcomed there,” he said.

He said patrons and staff who look out for each other and try to make the bar welcoming is a big part of what keeps him coming back.

“I think everyone who has been involved with running the bar after [Gwen’s] passing has done a wonderful job,” Swank said.

Nights that began at PK’s are some of Swank’s fondest memories.

“When you have a band who plays constantly at a location, you develop a relationship with the crowd,” he said.

Swank agrees with the sentiment voiced by Hunt’s granddaughter. “I hope they try to keep the place as close to what it is right now as possible,” he said.

Isabel Miller | @isabelmillermedia
Mugs rest on the bar on April 15, 2018 inside PK’s.

Manager Curtis Conley has continued to run the bar since Hunt passed. He has been working there in varying positions since 2006, when he started as a doorman for Halloween weekend.  

Conley says PK’s was the greatest job a 24-year-old could ever ask for.

“Good money, great boss, and a whole lot of fun. It allowed me the freedom to see the world and still make a living while having fun. The staff is a second family to me; a highly dysfunctional family, but some of my best friends in the world I’ve met behind that bar,” he said.

Conley says that though there are not any potential buyers at this time, he hopes whoever buys the bar will keep and appreciate the current staff.

He said he suspects there will be pushback from locals, but believes it is time for something new for PK’s future.

Conley says he is moving to Thailand in January to teach English but believes PK’s will live on.

“I hope to come back to PK’s in another 65 years,” he said.


Photo and Multimedia Editor Isabel Miller can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @isabelMMedia

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