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After 34 Years, the Billy Goat’s Jeff Magill Is Retiring

Magill behind the bar at Billy Goat Tavern   Photo: Taylor Castle

One of Chicago’s classic bars is losing one of its classic bartenders: Come Christmas Eve, longtime bartender Jeff Magill will be serving his last round at the original Billy Goat Tavern.

“I’m 65 now,” Magill says. “I want to feel young enough to enjoy the next chapter. I want to sleep when I’m tired and eat when I’m hungry.”

In February, Chicago published an extensive profile of Magill.  In it, he tells how he came to bartending in 1981 after leaving a career in psychology. “It’s a fact that a bartender uses psychology as much or more than a treatment specialist. That’s a condition of the job. But my learning to tend bar, that was a condition of me being a married guy with a new family. I needed the dough.”

His son moved to Dallas recently, so in January he’ll be playing golf there to get away from Chicago’s winter. Beyond that, Magill says he has no firm plans. Although he’s leaving the Billy Goat for now, he’s not leaving the Chicago area and says he’s not sure if he’s done bartending yet either.

Decades of serving Chicago’s journalists may have rubbed off: He says he’d like to try his hand at writing nonfiction. He isn’t sure if the final product will be worthy of public consumption, but he’d like to document his time tending bar regardless.

Every walk of life comes through our doors. I’ve experienced a scope of humanity here.”

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