BUSTED: A Look at the Downfall of the Tam / by Morgan Davies

Just beyond the corner where the Tremont and Boylston streets meet sits a small bar, glowing in red and green lights. The Tam, described on Google as a “No-nonsense, cash-only watering hole for boozing & socializing in the Theater District,” is a Boston legend. The establishment is included on multiple Thrillist lists of Boston’s best dives, and was even visited by Justin Bieber in 2016. Surrounded on nearly all sides by colleges and campus buildings, The Tam has also become a famous rite of passage for local students both of-age and underage, particularly those at Emerson College. However, on February 1, the staff’s leniency with students got the bar in trouble, when plainclothes officers stopped in, and started asking for IDs.

Though Emerson students are known to frequent the bar on Thursdays, the truth about what happened there that night has been hard to separate from the rumors. Originally there were tales of student arrests, threats of action from Emerson, and even speculation that The Tam itself would be shut down (either by the police or from a lack of student business). So what really happened to the Boston staple that is The Tam? What are the facts, and what is fiction?

Here’s what we know:

About the “Bust”

According to an anonymous source, the “Tam Bust” wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, just an unfortunate coincidence for several underaged students on a Thirsty Thursday. “The ABCC (Alcohol Beverage Control Commission) does routine checks on everybody who sells booze… They happened to check up on the Tam on a Thursday, and as such found a few people with fake IDs,” the source told me in a brief interview. “I know from the people working that night that there wasn’t a patty wagon or swat team. Just a few plainclothes guys with badges, like normal.”

The Tam is Alive and Well

While fairly empty the night after, The Tam was not shut down after the fear-inducing check-in. They have however improved their security, and according to several students they’ve been much stricter about who they let in the door. “I went there with my roommate last weekend, and she’s 22…her ID didn’t scan for whatever reason and they didn’t let her in,” said Casey Tsamis, a 21-year-old journalism major at Emerson. “She had to go back [to her apartment] and get her passport.” It’s hard to know how long the crackdown will continue, but Emersonians without legal IDs should be wary.

The Emerson Conspiracies

Though the ABCC story has been verbally confirmed by Tam employees, the Emerson student body has run wild with theories as to why the officers chose that particular night to check on The Tam. Many believe that the ABCC was tipped off, and the most popular belief that has been circulating is that the Emerson College administration was behind the call. While it’s easy to imagine the school staff being concerned about underaged Tam-goers, some students have proposed a more interesting theory: that the call was made over real estate. Some claim that Emerson has had its eyes on The Tam’s building for years, and several students told me that the school has tried to buy it in the past, but was repeatedly been denied.

While it’s fun to think of Emerson as the mastermind behind the bust, it might make more sense to consider the involvement of other players. A source told me that a tip would have more likely come from across state lines, suggesting that it was worried parents who called the police after finding out what their kids get up to on Thursday nights.

Is it really possible that Mom and Dad could be the ones who put a stop to your undergrad Tam Trivia nights? How would anyone’s parents know to squeal on a dive bar? “They’re the same people who report parties to cops. Unknown to their kids, they have access to the kids’ facebook and look at the events they get invited to,” our source explained. “On the night of the party, they’ll see the address posted through their kids’ facebook and narc. Ever been at a party, and its not even loud, and there’s no neighbors that would care, but it still gets busted? That’s why.”

While we may never know what really brought officers to The Tam that night, we’ll always have the crazy speculations to look back on. The Boston legend lives on, continuing to provide its patrons with cheap booze and Emerson conspiracies.


Illustration by: Eleanor Hilty