The original Billy Goat Tavern location was “born” in 1934 when Greek immigrant, William “Billy Goat” Sianis, purchased the Lincoln Tavern. Billy Goat bought the tavern for $205, with a check that bounced but was later repaid with sales from the first weekend. The tavern was located across from the Chicago Stadium (now United Center) and attracted mainly sports fans. Sianis became known as “Billy Goat,” when a goat fell off a passing truck and wandered inside. Sianis adopted the goat, grew a goatee, acquired the nickname “Billy Goat,” and changed the name of the bar to the Billy Goat Tavern.


The Republican Convention came to town in 1944 and Billy Goat posted a sign saying, “No Republicans allowed.” This caused the tavern to be packed with Republicans demanding to be served, and led to local fame for the savvy Billy Goat, publicity stunt master.


In 1964, Billy Goat moved his tavern to its present subterranean location. Since then, the Billy Goat Tavern has expanded to include locations on Washington Street (Loop), Wells Street (South Loop), the “Billy Goat Inn” on Madison Avenue (United Center), Navy Pier, O’Hare (Terminal 1, Concourse C), and Washington D.C.

The Lincoln Tavern
The Lincoln Tavern was Billy Goat Sianis’s first bar and predecessor to the Billy Goat Tavern. Sianis paid his first tavern with the proceeds from opening weekend and it was here that the original billy goat “Murphy” (simply labeled “Billy” in the photo) stumbled in and met his new master.

In the photo above, Billy Goat Sianis can be seen pouring a bottle of Blatz into the mouth of Murphy. You can see that the thirsty goat missed nary a drop. According to Bill Sianis, present day manager of the tavern and great nephew to Billy Goat Sianis, “That goat loved to drink.”

The Mascot
Standing in front of Billy Goat Sianis is one of Murphy’s descendants strapped to a ceremonial Warren Avenue 27th District wagon, perfectly sized for a billy goat, presumably in yet another one of Sianis’s publicity stunts.

Upon the passing of Billy Goat Sianis, the tradition lives on with Sam Sianis, nephew to Billy Goat Sianis, seen here in his younger days at the bar of the current Billy Goat Tavern along with one of Socrates’s descendants.