October 10, 2012

The State of the Bars 2012

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My fellow Cornellians, we live in a time of great uncertainty and change. Our lives outside of these Ivy-covered walls are constantly under scrutiny by administrators who truly care about our well-being. However, there are times when we need to disconnect from those watchful eyes. It is at those times, my friends, when we turn to the bars.

Let me just start with one devastating statistic: Three-quarters of the undergraduate student body does not remember Johnny-O’s or Dino’s. Those fine establishments were before your time, juniors! I’m willing to bet two soul mates once met over a pitcher of Yuengling at the exact spot some naïve sophomore now sits enjoying her overpriced frozen yogurt. It’s a disgrace. I don’t know if you have noticed, but the now defunct Dino’s has a new exterior paint job. You can’t paint over memories.

We must continue to remember the tragic closing of The Palm’s. I personally had never frequented this staple of Collegetown life due to the pesky drinking age law. But to this day, at midnight on a Saturday night, you’ll hear a harrowed senior raising his glass, half sobbing half shouting, “It’s Palm’s o’clock somewhere!”

Fellow weekend warriors, do not fret. There is still hope. I promise you a brighter day is coming. The bars that have survived this terrifying economic plague have emerged with renewed vigor. Level B, or as my friends like to call it, Devil B, is perhaps the most notorious. The New York Times hangs out there. While it’s not always a great time, it’s the definition of hit or miss. Recently, more of the graduate student population has been hanging out there (shout out to the Johnson School of Management) which is great for those co-eds looking for more mature company. Level B is the only place in Collegetown you can find the fishbowl. Why we feel okay about paying $20 for well vodka and Kool-Aid that comes with a plastic dinosaur that you have to hunch around to finish with your five closest friends — these are the mysteries of our times.

Across the street you’ll find Dunbar’s, the dingiest of bars. You may need to be an acrobat to keep the bathroom door closed while you inhale the putridest of odors, but hey, $3 Long Islands on Thursdays. Group therapy Wednesdays. Good looking bartenders. What more could you ask for? Well, a lot, but I still find myself at Dunbar’s more often than anywhere else.

After a short walk down a steep hill you will find Loco and Chapter House. The two establishments could not be more different. At Loco, you get a free shot if you do body shots, while at Chapter House it is not uncommon to see some hipsters playing violin and / or accordion singing 19th century folk songs. The Chapter House beer selection really cannot be beat. Graduate students also heavily frequent the Chapter House, but the vibe is less about meeting people and more about having scholarly conversations with the people you came with. Alas, I’ve never actually met a grad student there.

A beacon of growth and change lies at Pixel. Pixel had once been so under the radar that not a soul entered. In recent years it has flourished as a bizarre dance club for a certain crowd of Cornellians. Pixel isn’t really my scene, I’m not cool enough.

If the grunge that is standard for Collegetown bars is not up your ally, find solace at the College Ave reliables Rulloff’s and Stella’s. Rulloff’s is the place where you’ll meet either a senior or a much older alumni. It’s not trying to be anything gimmicky, and it has an atmosphere of nonchalance. Stella’s is certainly the classiest joint in Collegetown, and their bartenders really care about alcohol. If I had a choice, Stella’s Hummingbird would be the only mixed drink I’d ever drink. If you ever want to learn more about alcohol, grab a stool at Stella’s and strike up a conversation.

This is a time of change in our bar scene. Two new players have arrived to try their hand at luring the collegiate bar-flies to suck their brand of sweet alcoholic nectar. The Bear’s Den, which is basically the Ivy Room with a tap installed and a cooler of beer, is the administration’s answer to nightlife. I definitely see the potential as a venue for organizations to hold events that can allow both those of age and those underage to have a great time together. It’s also the place where you’re most likely to find a student leader grabbing a brew between Very Important Meetings.

There is a strong future in The Gates, the newest bar on Eddy St. It was an interesting strategy to open on the first day of Cornell’s fall break, but I see a lot of potential in The Gates. Boasting live music and a spacious interior, I foresee The Gates winning “Collegetown Bar Where You’re Most Likely to Meet a Townie” in my fictitious contest of bars.

My fellow students, the bar scene is not dead, despite what you may hear. As we move forward, let us be hopeful and commit to the revival of nightlife at this great institution. If we allow it, the state of our bars will always be strong.

Morgan Bookheimer is a senior in the College of Human Ecology. She may be reached at mbookheimer@cornellsun.com. Behind the Time appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Morgan Bookheimer