Binge drinking is dismissed as a temporary and accepted part of every college student’s life, underage drinking is viewed as a sort of right of passage for college students. What are the options for those who want to go out on the weekends and not underage drink though? Hookah.
Xan Spalding (19 years-old, Ohio University) is a Resident Assistant in one of the university residence halls. For Xan, underage drinking is an even bigger risk than for other students. If an RA is caught drinking underage they not only face the fines and legal charges everyone else does, they will lose those their job and be out a place to live.
“The awkwardness of running into one of my residence is not worth it! I’ve built friendships with all of them…but at the same time, I would be required to report them.” -Xan Spalding
Maybe you’re thinking that you would still be missing out then. Missing out on what though? While Hookah culture is definitely a unique one, it’s not called a hookah “bar” for nothing. Just about anything you can do at a bar, you can do at a hookah bar.
Pyramids Athens Hookah Bar, much like other hookah bars, plays various hip-hop/R&B/dance music. If you were expecting tranquil Indian folk music…well, you are about to be disappointed.
Just like the groups of drunk people a few doors down, when a ’90s throwback or a favorite single comes on everyone dances and sings along. The best part? In Pyramids Athens Hookah Bar, you can control the AUX cord.
So, there’s dancing and singing…what about the pointless (but strangely still captivating to any bystander) party tricks?
Tequila shots with no cringing, going shot for shot, or chugging a pint of beer while spilling half of it down your freshly ironed t-shirt can be impressive (I guess?) but people can learn to blow O-rings, stack choo-choo trails, and blow hearts toward an admirable cutie at the hookah bar. The best part? They probably won’t throw up afterwards and can safely go home and make decisions for themselves.
While hookah isn’t for everyone and has it’s own list of concerns (cardio-respiratory health may be somewhere to start), it’s an alternative night life scene that is worth checking out.
The era of a Barack Obama and Joe Biden administration may be over, but memes of the duo are far from ending. It’s almost a sure thing that you can find a photo of the duo to perfectly describe any situation. Here are six times the former “BROTUS” and his best friend are totally you and your bestie on Court Street.
The Green Cab
OK, you got a little crazy and splurged on a Green Cab ride to Court Street: there’s no way this 20 degree weather is killing your night. Now you and your pals have to act like you didn’t just pregame to Bad and Boujee on a loop nine times.
2. Only going to Red Brick for Brick Break
Leaving Red Brick literally the second that Brick Break ends. (Thank God you’re not a freshman anymore)
3. When that one door guy finally recognizes you
Is it a good thing or a bad thing that the door guy sees you so often he doesn’t even need to card you? Either way, you didn’t have to fumble for your ID in the dark, so it’s a win.
4. Thanking your best friend from pulling you away from oncoming traffic.
We’ve all done it: thinking you’re stealthy enough to beat the oncoming car in your dash across Court Street, but your best friend knows your not. We all know that moment of gratitude we feel knowing that your friend would save your life like that.
5. Finally ordering food at 3 am
Whether your late night food preference is O’Betty’s, Wing’s Over, Souvlaki’s, Big Mamma’s or one of the other local eateries, we all know the pure joy of finally grasping our perfectly crafted order in our hands after a night on the bricks.
6. Watching your Snapchat stories the next day.
It’s one of everyone’s favorite things to do the next day: watch everything you may or may not remember posting to your Snapchat. It’s also kind of comforting knowing that in less than 24 hours, no one will really remember what happened anyways.
It happens to both guys and gals all the time. But, being a guy, it seems like it happens to us more often. You’ll be with your friends at the bar on Friday or Saturday night, and you see this girl that you think is really cute. You start talking to her and start buying her drinks. It seems like you’re having a great time until…she’ll “be right back”. Next thing you know, you see her at the bar with her ex.
Simon looks over and sees his lady friend, and says (with his signature accent), “You have got to be kidding me.” Honestly, he’s almost just as mad about spending $10 on her than he is about her talking to another guy.
Barack is simply mind-blown that Michelle would blow him off and accept a drink and a conversation from President Donald Trump.
Little Johnny’s face says it all. Really no explanation needed.
4. Pauly D
I think we all know what DJ Pauly D is saying…or sreaming. “Him! Of all people you can talk to in the entire bar, and you talk to him. Holy S#%t!
Lets take a look inside Hercules’s mind…..
You really just did that, really? No “nice to meet you” or “see ya around,” nothing? Thanks, you just wasted seven years of my short dog life. I officially hate you.
I find myself walking up and down Court Street on a Tuesday evening, looking for a place to sit for a couple of drinks. I could go to any number of diners, shops, or hipster restaurants, but I want something between a dive and a sit-down bar & restaurant.
I choose The Crystal. Its facade is neither repulsive nor wholly appealing. A healthy mix of male and female students sit over drinks at the counter. I find the five TVs over the bar a little excessive when there are only six of us in the building, but some it seems they can’t get enough of sports talk. The shelves behind the bar are lined with a rainbow of flavored vodka and cheap liquor.
I notice a small selection of taps. Alongside the standard American lagers, the Alaskan Amber Ale stands out. I order a glass and the bartender asks for $2.00. “$2.00 for what?” I ask. “That’s how much it costs,” she replies.
Hold on. That’s roughly what this stuff goes for bottled. I’m conditioned to paying six times that at bars in Singapore, and I do most of my drinking at home in my rural town that serves only Bud and Miller on tap. Despite the minor inconvenience of having to pay cash at The Crystal, I decide I’ll find myself here more than once after an evening class.
I take my first sip of beer from a frosty pint glass. The rim is chipped but rounded. I put the glass down so it can warm a bit and be drinkable for enjoyment. Some hip-hop song comes on and repeats, “Know I hit you with that dropkick, Marty Jannetty.” I wonder if any of these kids a decade younger than me know what the hell the guy is singing about. And then I’m suddenly swung into a mix of 2000s alt-rock and emo. The atmosphere is a little uneven.
Rylee, the bartender, thinks so too. She’s left her post at the bar, trying to get the right music going. Frustrated, she settles with Hoobastank’s “The Reason.” At the same time I think, “For god’s sake, why won’t that song die,” a customer expresses the same sentiment to the bartender. We get back on the musical merry-go-round.
As an enormous eight-bladed fan lethargically drifts over top of the bar to keep an already cool night just a bit cooler, I notice that Rylee knows all of her patrons. It seems that this place is the kind people return to for cheap drinks and easy conversation. It has no pretension. So even though I sit in a shirt and tie among a line of twenty-somethings in hoodies and jeans, I find myself comfortable and looking forward to the next time I can drop by to unwind after a long day of high school teaching and college classwork.
He sits next to you in class and you can’t remember why he looks so familiar. It’s because you drank until you blacked out last night. And also because he was your bouncer.
Ohio University located in beautiful Appalachian, Athens County, making it feel like it’s isolated from the rest of the world.
For the students lucky enough to have a car on campus most major cities are about an hour away. Unfortunately students who don’t have cars rely on GoBuses, a popular shuttle bus that goes between major cities, with a few detours in between which makes any trip longer.
So it’s no surprise when students pick the bars on Court Street as their main source of entertainment on any given night.
They’re the unrecognized heroes of the night, bouncers.
You see them every night, you just don’t recognize their faces. You don’t care about their names, unless being friendly will get you into the bar quicker.
Bouncers are the underappreciated heroes—or, pesky villains, depending on how bad your fake I.D. happens to be—of the night.
Three brave bouncers came forward and shared their experiences from their time on the job. This is what they had to say.
Julian Pelfrey, formerly at Lucky’s Tavern
It was the summer before senior year and I needed a job if I wanted to live in Athens over the summer instead of going home to work in a factory. I went to most of the bars on Court Street and applied.
It was something I always considered wanting to do when I started college. And I never regretted working there once.
If I wasn’t on a set career path I’d definitely do the job again. It was great while it lasted. You learn people and social skills because you must interact with nearly everyone that comes into the bar.
Every night you deal with at least one overly drunk person but they aren’t usually too bad to coerce out of the bar but it’s like at least once a month there’s someone trying to fight.
Once a patron threw a glass mug at the bartender. This was midday. Another time, a guy sucker punched one patron and ran out of the bar. Once someone even tried to fight the owner.
Every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we would see at least 10-15 fakes per bouncer. Each state has its own holograms to set them apart. Some people would have sailboats on their holograms which no state has.
Other people don’t understand that height makes a difference, one time a guy, around 5 feet 4 inches tall, tried to use an ID for someone that was 6 feet 9 inches tall—someone I personally knew played on the football team.
Gus Oberdick, formerly at Jackie O’s
I found out about the job from one of my mod mates who was working there as well. He said they were hiring so I went in with him and talked to the manager who eventually invited me back for an interview.
The job was weird honestly. I loved the atmosphere but I didn’t enjoy the “bar life.” It was a different kind of world, the people who work jobs like this live a backwards life. You go into work at 8 p.m. and get off around 4 a.m. I’m an engineering major and I couldn’t make it work with my schedule and eventually just quit Jackie O’s.
I did like the job because the people at Jackie O’s are great. There’s not a lot of annoying underclassmen, no obnoxious music, and everyone is generally in a good mood. It just wasn’t the job for me.
At Jackie O’s you turn people away every now and then, it’s an older person’s bar so there aren’t as many underage people trying to get in.
The most uncomfortable I’ve ever been was when I had to kick out one of my TA’s because he had gotten into a fight with another patron. It was weird having that authority over someone who has some kind of “authority” over you.
Benny Lam, currently at Jackie O’s
I’ve always wanted to work at a bar and I knew Jackie O’s was a pretty established one so I called when they were hiring and they told me to apply online. I didn’t get a response until three months later.
Working at Jackie O’s is better than I expected. It’s a laid-back environment and the people who work with me are honestly down to Earth. Jackie O’s has a certain aesthetic when it comes to who works there and the patrons which is why it works so well as a bar.
I’ve had a few people get rowdy but it’s never gotten out of hand.
We do get fake I.D.’s, but fortunately because we have a reputation of not serving underage people like some of the bars on Court Street, it’s not a lot. Their fakes get denied and then it’s up to whoever is working to decide whether they want to take their fake I.D.
Before getting the job I frequently went out but once I got the job I had to cut back immediately. Working closing shifts every Friday and Saturday took a toll on me in the beginning because I had to sacrifice going out with my friends.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Large Ohio cities such as Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland are known for successfully conjuring excellent craft beer (think Great Lakes and Columbus Brewing Company). Yet Athens is slowly, but surely, becoming a new hub for craft brewing. The town has long been known as being the home of Jackie O’s, but this past summer two new breweries entered the fold.
One of the new establishments is Little Fish Brewing Company. The small brewery, located a short five-minute drive from campus at 8675 Armitage Road, opened in early July right before Ohio Brew Week. Athens natives Sean White and Jimmy Stockwell are the founders and owners of the operation.
The duo both started as home brewers for many years. White went on to have brewing internships and jobs in different corners of the United States but eventually came home to Athens to fulfill his dream of opening his own brewery. All of the beers served at Little Fish’s taproom are made right there at the facility. The open floor plan allows guests to see where their beer is made and stored. It’s a participatory atmosphere White and Stockwell are proud to have created.
But besides awesome beer and a unique setup, Little Fish has other special features. Currently, the brewery doesn’t yet have the ability to produce its own food. Instead, it has created partnerships with local food trucks to come to the brewery every day that it’s open. Holy Guacamole, Cajun Clucker and Mauvette’s Caribbean Fusion all make stops at Little Fish throughout the week. Having food at the brewery was always an important objective for the brewery.
“We are kind of on the outside of town, and certainly people can have food delivered here, but we thought it was important to the experience of coming to the brewery and spending the afternoon here; and if people were going to spend extended periods of time, we wanted them to have food,” Stockwell said.
Senior strategic communications student Alessa Rosa visited the brewery at the beginning of the semester with her boyfriend and his family. During her visit, she was surprised to see that one of her favorite trucks was serving food.
“Holy Guacamole was there and I almost died,” she said. “It was nice because I had been hunting Holy Guacamole down for like months and they don’t have regular times when they’re in their usual spot and I can’t find the information. So it’s nice knowing that every Thursday they’ll be there so I can go and get [it].”
Incorporating a local food truck along with the well-made craft beer made a positive impression on Rosa. She said she would like to go back sometime to try something new.
White said a long-term goal for Little Fish is to one day open an independent restaurant on site. Though the planning for this is far in the future, it’s still something he’s very excited about. Being sustainable is something the brewery is proud of and hopes to continue to improve on.
“To sort of get a real farm-to-table experience out here we can’t just have brewing ingredients out there, but maybe we’ll have a small greenhouse and some garden beds and be able to supply some of our own produce,” White said.
In the mean time, Stockwell and White are celebrating a big milestone for the company. On Oct. 24, the brewery celebrated its first bottle release of three of its brews. Stockwell said bottles are available of Saison, Woodthrush and the original version of the Reinheitsgewhat?! sour beer. Customers looking to get their hands on some brews for home can stop by the taproom or select bottle shops around town. Stockwell also said some brews are on tap at Casa Nueva, J Bar and Pigskin.
The beginning of the fall season beckons the imminence of the Halloween celebrations. Straightaway, the almost forgotten city of southeast Ohio, Athens, becomes the name on everyone’s lips — both young and old.
All roads lead to the brick city, the undisputed “home of HallOUween,” to have a feel of the wind of fun and craziness blowing through the county.
During this time the hash tag #HallOUween trends on social media, to give everyone an idea of where to be for the celebration. Don’t be surprised to see “OU” in the middle of the word itself. Halloween is Athens. Athens is Halloween. Period.
Saturday night was not different. It was a sight to behold on the brick-lined Court Street of Athens. The famous Athens Halloween Block Party was making progress.
With a charged atmosphere and a massive show of youthful exuberance, students, community members and visitors sang along and cheered performers throughout the night. The excitement was beyond description.
Aside the music, dance and ear-blocking cheers from revelers, I observed one thing. Some eateries and bars had a pocket swell. Long-winding queues stretched from their entrances with a spill onto the streets. Obviously, food could never be left out of the night’s pleasure, which translated into what could be described as a very good business day for some Court Street business owners.
Another thing caught my attention. A human parking meter with the popular campus yellow bag with the inscriptions “no parking” worn on his head. You just questioned won’t he suffocate to death? Huh? Exactly my thoughts when I first saw him.
Thankfully, he had punched holes around the eyes and nose to allow for breathing. He stood still with one arm stretched. You ‘park’ in front of him, he fines you. Just as simple as that. (Hahahaaa!).
Returning to my humble abode, scores of people were having their own mini block parties in front of their apartments. As to whether it was a warm up to go down to Court Street, or their own way of celebrating the night, I can’t tell but all I can say is that, Athens #HallOUween Block Party was a blast with a variety of activities for both young and old.
Are you trying to decide on a place to eat before going out with your friends for your 21st birthday? Maybe you’re going to see a touring Broadway show at Memorial Auditorium but need to find a place to have a quality meal beforehand? With so many wonderful places to eat in Athens, it can be hard to narrow down your choices. No need to worry; I’ve done the research for you! These five eateries, all of which can be found on or just off of Court Street, are the best places to enjoy a meal before any kind of occasion.
Casa Nueva is a classic Athens favorite, and with delicious Mexican-style food, vegan and gluten-free options, and live music, it’s no wonder why. Casa even uses ingredients like pawpaws when they’re in season for a truly unique dining experience. Friendly service, a casual ambience, and some of the best quesadillas in town make this restaurant a hit.
Perhaps you need to grab your food and run? Just across the street from Casa Nueva, O’Betty’s is a great little hole in the wall with famously delectable hot dogs. All the hot dogs on the menu are named after famous exotic and burlesque dancers, and vegetarian options are available. My personal recommendation is the Lily, which comes topped with homemade baked beans and cole slaw. Also, if you’re a cheese fan, their cheesy fries are the bomb. You can’t go wrong with O’Betty’s.
Athens is known for having a variety of exotic cuisines, and Sol is the epitome of that. This restaurant specializes in Cuban dishes along with traditional college student favorites such as loaded nachos (with cheese, black beans, lettuce, tomato, fire-roasted salsa, red onion, and sour cream – yum). Many of their dishes are vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free. Try their Cuban fusion wrap, fish tacos, or maduros (slightly cartelized plantains) and enjoy the friendly staff.
The minute you step into Salaam, the atmosphere sets the stage for the meal you’re about to have. Beaded curtains, colorful tapestries, and the hospitable employees make you feel right at home and ready for some amazing Mediterranean food. Try a plate of their Mediterranean pasta (penne pasta with basil pesto, feta, and sun-dried tomato) or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, the vegan vegetable curry with tofu (fresh vegetables with fried tofu and a tomato/coconut milk curry sauce served over basmati rice with coriander chutney and papadum).
Or maybe you’re more of the Leslie Knope-type and prefer to just fill up on dessert or baked goods before going out. Although Fluff Bakery also carries entrée-type food (sandwiches, salads, and salmon, just to name a few), they’re best known for their bakery, as you may have guessed. Their cannoli, pumpkin and red velvet cupcakes, macaroons, cinnamon twists, etc., are to die for. If you’re not hungry before walking in, the smell of the kitchen will have your mouth watering in no time.
Athens has never been accused of having too few places to drink. If anything, it could very well be the opposite. One way to wade through the pool of choices is to know what you want in a drinking establishment. So if you like live music, boy do we have five bars for you.
The first on the list is Casa, a local favorite known for its good food to pair with your drink. Casa has been known to draw bands from all over Ohio and surrounding states. This is the place to see upcoming bands that show promise. While the establishment is more spacy than others on this list, the stage is front and center and provides good sound for the whole joint. They also offer good specials, including one dollar PBR’s on Tuesday. Casa is one of the classier establishments on the list, and the visitors here tend to be adults, or at least older students. If you’re looking for a tamer atmosphere that’s still fun, this is the place for you.
The Red Brick Tavern has a reputation for being a bar where younger students go, but don’t let that stop you. They have an entire room downstairs devoted to live music, complete with a stage up front and a bar in the back. The bands that play there differ, and you don’t always have to pay a cover, which is a plus. They stage is also separate from the rest of the bar, which means that, on a crowded night, you might get some breathing room if you’re there to see the show. Also, don’t forget about karaoke on Wednesday, where you have the chance to be the star of the show. My advice would be to wait until everyone’s had a few dinks though.
In Athens, Jackie O’s is synonymous with craft beer. Their micro brewery is lauded throughout the state and their selection is probably the most diverse on this list. Their arguably most popular brew is called Mystic Mama, so be sure to order one if you happen to be in the neighborhood. Like Casa, Jackie O’s draws bigger names than other bars and you can usually bet on a good show. In short, you come for the great beer and stay for the good music.
Not to be outdone by anyone, the Union is another great venue to hear bands. They have as many local bands as out of town ones. Some have called it a hipster bar, but I’ve never seen that personally. I could not in good conscience send you to a hipster bar. There is one small problem, however. It burnt down last year. The reason it is still included in this list is because so many people choose this bar as their go-to haunt and they are in the process of rebuilding. Those with patience will not regret returning to the Union for a good show once it reopens in the future.
While some may turn their nose up at the Skull, it does have a certain atmosphere that some find enjoyable. The Skull is unashamedly rough and could never be mistaken for more upscale places such as Casa Nueva. They do offer some local entertainment, usually at least twice a month. The stage, while small, offers an intimate seat for everyone in the house. Fair warning, it will get loud. Most of the bands that play there are local so it’s a great place to hear new bands that aren’t as known. Like Jackie O’s, they also offer their own craft beer, called Skull Ale. However, tread lightly. Rumor has it nobody who tried Skull Ale has ever been seen again.
Part of what makes Athens so great is there is so much to do when the sky turns dark. The nightlife scene makes Court Street come alive, with bars lining both sides of the street. There are even bars a little off the trail of Court, and every bar is unique and offers something different.
On a recent evening, I decided to compare two very different bars across town to see just how different tastes can be in Athens. I was also hoping to catch karaoke night at both, but was only successful on one front. And when determining which bars would make the best comparison, it became clear that it couldn’t get much different when it comes to the Smiling Skull Saloon and Red Brick Tavern.
So in the name of good journalism, I trekked out to visit these two bars. I also dragged my best friend along for support and to enjoy what I assumed would be mediocre karaoke.
Before this little experiment, I had never been to the Smiling Skull. Upon entering, I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in. We arrived at 9:15 and the bar was pretty dead, so it was easy to remain low-key and grab a table.
An older couple was running the karaoke table and I couldn’t wait to see who would step up to the microphone. The clientele was mostly middle-aged with a sprinkling of students, so it was going to be an interesting night. First up was a man who, unsurprisingly, sang a country song. He was actually really good.
A slew of slow karaoke songs followed that started to put me to sleep. But things got interesting when a man decided to give all he had to his performance, including dancing/flinging himself all over the stage. His wild performance gave new life to the night.
A duo of young women sang “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood while their friends videotaped them and cheered along the entire time. Shortly after another duo led the bar in a sing-a-long of “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani.
The best performance of the night was a young woman singing Tina Turner. She was so effortless. My friend and I had been chatting and not really paying attention, but as soon as she started singing we were locked in and focused. What made it even better was that she was casually sipping a beer while singing.
Once The Skull got packed, we decided to make out way over to Red Brick. I was honestly a bit embarrassed I was going there as a senior and for any reason besides Brick Break. But I swallowed my pride and went in. I was surprised to see it so busy (I guess freshmen have to go somewhere) and disappointed to find it wasn’t karaoke night.
I have been to Red Brick for karaoke once before, and I was sad I was missing out on the disaster that it is. None of the people I saw sing here were even close to being a good singer, but they knew that and still made it wildly entertaining. Just picture a bunch of freshmen boys belting out the oldies with the occasional somewhat current song and that is Red Brick karaoke night.
Freshmen are too wild for me and I felt like a grandma this night. Watching a young couple argue right next to me was awkward but I couldn’t look away. People bumped into us and didn’t apologize. My best friend and I exchanged “I’m too old for this” sentiments.
Despite feeling like the oldest gals in the room, we had fun and danced by ourselves in a corner by the bar and people watched. People watching at Red Brick is really something.
These two bars are vastly different, but still offer a good time to their patrons.