UB nightlife takes a turn
Only one bar remains in South Campus area of Main Street
What used to be one of the most popular bars by South Campus has become the home of the calzone king.
A neon blue sign and long line of drunken freshmen can no longer be spotted outside of 3160 Main St. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays. The former dance club and bar Northside has become a new, different hot spot for college students: Zonies.
The nightlife on UB's South Campus has evolved recently. The number of open bars has decreased steadily, from five popular bars to just one. The Steer is now the only open bar in the South Campus area of Main Street, and UB students are worried about what these changes will bring to the college town's nightlife.
Lauren Weinisch, a UB alumna, said it is truly unfortunate that Main Street has "died."
"When my friends and I were freshmen [in 2006], the bars on Main Street were the place to be on Thursdays and Saturdays," Weinisch said. "Tuesdays and Fridays were the 'optional' night out. Room 101 was our go-to; they always played great music, you were guaranteed to get in and it was always packed from wall to wall."
As Weinisch continued her career at UB, Room 101 closed and she and her friends started going to Mojo's. The owners of Mojo's attempted to give it a "Greek Life" feel, according to Sam Schustek, a senior speech and hearing major.
Weinisch said when she was a senior in 2010, The Steer became the obvious bar choice. There were nights that Third Base hosted "flip night," and during those times the bar received a big crowd, but the majority of her nights out were spent at The Steer.
Hundreds of UB students study abroad each year, according to UB's "Up and Away" study abroad website. Schustek was one of those students; she spent the spring semester abroad in Barcelona through a SUNY Oswego program. The nightlife there revolved around clubs, she said, and coming back to Buffalo has been bittersweet.
"The clubs [in Barcelona] were huge and really different from the nightlife in Buffalo," Schustek said. "No smelly basement house parties. The clubs were a lot of fun and the places I went to were basically all Americans partying in one spot."
When Schustek heard two bars on South Campus had closed down, she was relieved they were the bars underclassmen frequent, because she is 21 and can get into The Steer. Now the lines for The Steer are long, she said, and it gets packed.
Schustek does not mind Northside being changed into Zonies, though. Any new "drunk food" is always welcomed on South Campus.
Christine Karotseris, a junior nursing major, spent her summer abroad in Spain. Karotseris finds nightlife in Buffalo boring after experiencing clubs abroad.
"The bars in Spain do something different every night of the week," Karotseris said. "They go out so late and nothing ever closes. Sometimes I didn't even go out until midnight or 1 a.m. Also, guys abroad love American girls. Once I said I was American, every guy I met would not leave me alone."
Karotseris hopes bars around UB start to host live shows and performances or fun nights the way the bars in Spain do.
The bars in Spain rarely ever carded students, she said, which is a big difference from the strict entry at The Steer.
Carly Schreiber, a senior communication major, studied abroad in Israel. Schreiber's dorm was located in the center of Tel Aviv, and she spent most of her nights at the coolest clubs in town, she said.
"I came back to Buffalo where there is now only one main bar," Schreiber said of The Steer. "While on one side the convenience of this one bar being one block away from my house is amazing, I also realize how important it is to broaden your horizons. After being in Tel Aviv, I realize that these years are the prime years for going out and having fun ... being young and experiencing things is a part of college, and I do feel like having only one bar on South Campus is holding me back from that."
Schreiber said she and her friends viewed The Steer as the obvious bar choice even before Mojo's and Northside closed. Now that The Steer is the only option, students are worried it may not feel as exclusive as it did before.
Workers at The Steer say their bar's crowd has not changed due to the other bars shutting down, though.
During the summertime, the crowd at The Steer is a little bit older and business is slightly slower because many college students go home for the break, according to Caitlin Lewis, a senior communication major and bartender at The Steer. Now that school has begun again, the bar is crowded and fun, she said.
"Our big nights are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday," Lewis said. "We've got all different types of people that come in, but I've noticed that a lot of people that come on Fridays and Saturdays also come during the week."
Lewis explained the vibe of The Steer to be "the college experience."
"If you go to UB, the No. 1 bar that you hear about is The Steer and everyone comes to The Steer," Lewis said. "It's fun, it's crazy, it's loud [and] it's just a good time. Here we always say, 'The good ones, they always come back.'"
Mojo's and Northside had a reputation for admitting underage patrons, Lewis said. The security at The Steer is trained through security classes and all have their security licenses, so underage drinking is not an issue at the bar.
Jeff Martz, general manager at The Steer, said his bar has always had a little bit of an older crowd so they haven't had any real problems with underage students trying to get in yet. He said the first weekend back, security saw a few fake IDs and rejected those students from entering the bar, but nothing out of the ordinary has occurred at the entrance to the bar.
The Steer offers drink specials that Mojo's and Northside did not, he said.
"Here at The Steer, we've got a fully stocked bar and we also have premium liquor," Lewis said. "I know at Northside and Mojo's they didn't carry any premium liquors. We also have bottom shelf, which is affordable for students. For example, our well drinks are $3 a drink. We have a cocktail list that we change all the time, so we've got a lot more variety than the other bars have had."
Jillian Bangel, a UB alumna and former Northside bartender, has a hard time imagining there being only one bar in the South Campus area of Main Street. Bangel said Northside had a very upbeat, party vibe in 2011 and then died down in 2012. Last year, though, she said the bar began to pick up again with a new staff, new crowd and new promoters - until it closed down.
"I was told that Northside shut down because they were faced with a summons, and instead of going to court and fighting it, they were given the option to bow out and keep their names out of the paper," Bangel said. "Because the two older owners were trying to move on from that business, they opted for just closing the place down."
The Steer is more of a relaxed social environment rather than a club/dance type of bar, Bangel said. She believes this type of scene is something the upperclassmen can appreciate more than UB's newest students.
"There is now just one bar on South Campus that only the upperclassmen at UB can enjoy," said Carly Weil, a senior communication major. "While this is good for those who are over 21 and enjoy the scene at The Steer, it's unfortunate for those who are 18 years old and just getting to college looking for a fun time out. These students may not experience what it's like to be at a bar on South Campus until their senior year, which really changes the way UB's nightlife has been these past four years."
Students are walking into Zonies drunkenly confused as to where Northside went, according to a worker at Zonies who requested anonymity. He said 20-25 people walk in each big night out between the hours of 12 and 5 a.m. to order calzones in the same spot they used to order their red bull vodkas.