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Thursday, August 11, 2022
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

A not so common place

Many students were still in high school when the end of an era rang through the University at Buffalo.
The student body had worn out PJ Bottoms for decades – the bar, not the bedtime garment – and enjoyed the "food, booze, and boogie" with their notorious $0.10 chicken wings, $3 bottles of Labatts, and disorderly crowd belting "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison until the sun came up.
Daniel Focher, an urban planning graduate student, says he will never forget PJ's "wings."
"They were amazing," Focher said. "Plump, jumbo, sashaying – whatever adjectives you want to apply – they were pure bliss. And the chicken wings were great, too."
Focher might be referring to another aspect of the bar's infamous existence – a hangout for salacious underage college students looking to pick up incoming freshman meat.
Unfortunately, this was what eventually led to PJ's demise.
On Dec. 15, 2005, the State Liquor Authority raided the bar located on 3270 Main St. Charges were brought against 20 minors for underage drinking and three bartenders who were accused of serving them alcohol.
PJ Bottoms was "temporarily" shut down – and after years of unanswered rumors of the bar's return to UB, students began to expect the closure was permanent.
Until now.
Michael Bolton, who earned his B.S. in business administration from UB in 1987, is now being celebrated as the hero who will bring the "food, booze, and boogie" back to the university. After the bar's nearly five-year hiatus, Bolton obtained a new bond and liquor license.
PJ Bottoms is expected to re-open its doors in September.
But they won't be the same doors or even the same location that UB graduate students and super seniors remember – because Bolton decided to bring the bar a little closer to home.
"I approached the university last year about moving the bar on campus because then many students won't have to worry about transportation, and also because I've seen bars on other campuses, such as St. Bonaventure University," Bolton said.
Initially, University at Buffalo's administration did not buy Bolton's proposal. They pointed out that the UB student population exceeds that of St. Bonaventure by 25,000, so safety concerns are multiplied. They said UB doesn't have the resources for adequate safety personnel to be on duty monitoring a bar every night.
Bolton switched gears and approached representatives from the Commons, a location that, while technically still on campus, offers land-lease flexibility and public-private partnership options. After receiving much a much more favorable response, Bolton realized that they were the perfect fit.
PJ Commons will be across from Burger King in an area formerly occupied by a variety of office space. Construction will begin next week, and the project will set Bolton back around $2 million.
Bolton, who says he spent nearly every weekend of his college life at the old PJ's, says he's going for a nostalgic design.
"It will be just as students remember it," Bolton said. "Wood paneling, cheap beer and wings while watching Sunday football, sticky floors, the hockey pucks in the urinal, darts, pool tables and all your best friends around you enjoying every minute – perfection."
Bolton has just received final approval by the university to accept Campus Cash because he doesn't want students to worry about handling cash or credit cards. However, one thing he insists on all students bringing with them is a valid I.D.
"The major difference between the old PJ's and the new PJ's will be the underage drinking. I'm going to make sure the bar doesn't get shut down this time," Bolton said.
The big comeback is tentatively scheduled for September 30. Bolton says a massive '80s party is scheduled for the grand re-opening to commemorate the decade when he considered PJ's his second home.
Jesse James, the television personality best known for cheating on Hollywood royalty for the tattoo-faced "Bombshell" McGee, is expected to host the '80s blowout.
"Jesse and I are good friends from my Choppers days. I told him about what I was doing here [in Buffalo] and he promised he would come out," Bolton said. "This party is definitely going down in UB history."
Depending on the success of PJ Commons, Bolton says he's considering looking into re-opening other old UB hotspots to complement the bar.
"Everything is still in the works, but I would love to open a Sal's Pizza next to the new PJ's," Bolton said.
If all goes well, the upcoming fall semester will mark the beginning of a new era – or at least the return of an old one.
Just as their predecessors did, University at Buffalo students will soon be chugging cheap beer before stumbling over to Sal's for a slice of pizza, which, in their drunken haze, will be the most delectable creation their taste buds will ever experience.
And the tradition will live on.

E-mail: features@ubspectrum.com

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