The declining Collegetown bar scene made its debut in The New York Times’ fashion section Thursday in an article that describes the recent collegiate social shift away from bars.
The feature –– written by Courtney Rubin ’96, a former Sun assistant managing editor and senior editor –– uses Collegetown bars as much of the backdrop against which it states its case that technology is responsible for the failing bar business in college towns across the country.
The article, entitled “Last Call for College Bars,” notes that because texting and social media have enabled students to plan their nights without using bars as a meet-up location, students' focus has shifted to “getting as cost-efficiently drunk as possible” during pregames. Consequently, the piece argues, what was once a sizable customer base now spend less time and money at bars –– placing great financial strain on local business owners.
“[Students] buy a bottle of Southern Comfort and show up [to The Royal Palm Tavern] in time to try to get laid,” said Lenny Leonardo, the bar’s former owner, in Rubin’s piece. “But they just end up throwing up in my men’s room, and I get reprimanded because it looks like I’m the one who let them get this drunk.”
But Rubin’s article approaches Cornell students’ changing social habits with a hint of mockery.
“It’s hard to look cool slurping blue-hued vodka through neon-colored straws from a fishbowl, and four sorority sisters, all Cornell University seniors, have long since stopped trying,” the article begins, poking fun at Wednesday “fishbowls” at Level B. “After all, cool is irrelevant when you have arrived at a bar at the insanely early hour of just after 9 p.m. on a Wednesday.”
Following Mike McLaughlin ’13 for a night, the piece also highlights the increasing prevalence of high-risk drinking at pregames.
“After drinking two Manhattans, a half-bottle of wine, a glass of Champagne in celebration of a friend’s job offer and almost a half-bottle of vodka, Mr. McLaughlin decided, about 11:15 p.m., to rally his friends to go to Dunbar’s for its ‘Group Therapy’: $6 for a pitcher of beer and a carafe of kamikaze shots of vodka, Triple Sec and lime,” Rubin writes.
The remainder of the article describes McLaughlin’s night, bouncing from Dunbar’s to Rulloff’s, never lingering long at one place or buying much alcohol, and finally concluding with his drunken devouring of two bagel sandwiches at Collegetown Bagels.
The piece also briefly touches on the 2011 changes to the Greek Recognition Policy, noting that the ban of freshmen at open fraternity parties has increased their consumption of hard alcohol.
“These freshmen, if they’ve met you once, they’ll ask [for alcohol],” Ally Momo ’13 said in the article. “They’d never ask you in person, but they’ll find you on Facebook.”
McLaughlin and Momo, however, may be among the only real names of students provided to Rubin in her story. The names of two 21-year-old students interviewed by Rubin at Level B –– Michelle Guida and Vanessa Silen –– do not appear in the University directory.
Neither do three students –– John Montana, David Lieberman and Ben Johnson –– who are identified as Cornell seniors in the caption of a photograph accompanying the piece.
Regardless of any potential factual inaccuracies, Rubin's witty retelling of a typical night out in Collegetown captures a grim reality for Ithaca entrepreneurs: Cornellians are becoming less interested in patronizing local bars.
“Once upon a time, in the Pleistocene epoch before cellphones and social media, students used bars as meeting places, heading there after class to find friends and to plot evenings over beer,” she writes. “[Now] there is little need to waste money even on cut-price drinks, and they often don’t arrive at the bars until midnight or so, before the bars in Ithaca close at 1 a.m.”
Read Rubin’s piece in its entirety: http://nyti.ms/Qy5I8y