No U for you: Owners turn once popular bar The U into Mexican restaurant


Students returning to UB this week and looking to go out have noticed that The U appears to have closed its doors.

The building that housed the only 18-and-over club option for students near North Campus hasn’t shut down for good, but it will be getting a makeover and a shakeup of its theme.

The owners of The U are turning the property into a Mexican-themed restaurant called Papi Grande’s Mexican Restaurant and Catina that has hopes of opening sometime this semester.

“Mexican is the hottest food trend in the world right now and we are looking forward to the change,” said Jim Spano, owner of The U, via email. “There is a need for authentic and affordable Mexican cuisine coupled with a trendy atmosphere in the Northtowns, especially to service the university community.”

Some students are displeased and confused about the temporary closing and change to a restaurant, as The U was one of the only places near North Campus to go to at night, especially for those under 21. The U had its own bus that transported students to the bar and UB Stampede buses even sometimes dropped students off there.

“The U closing gives students less and less options for nightlife, especially around North Campus,” said Lindsay Melito, a junior nursing major.

Papi Grande’s Mexican Restaurant and Cantina will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week, made by a new and experienced chef. The restaurant will also keep the kitchen open for late-night snacking and have an expansive bar, in which Spanish style drinks will be served such as skinny margaritas and Mexican mules.

On top of the daily food service, the restaurant will offer a private dining room with a television for events up to 30 people.

Spano said he’s been having conversions since the end of spring semester about changing the bar and opening the final product in the fall. He had planned for the restaurant to open before the start of the fall semester. He hopes that students who frequented the club will continue to support the restaurant when it opens.

When students originally believed the bar had closed and changed owners, not all of them were surprised. There was a lot of speculation by students that the club was shutdown due to allegedly allowing underage drinking.

Spano said the bar’s switch to a restaurant was not due to this.

“Converting the bar into a restaurant was purely a business decision,” Spano said. “Utilizing the property as a restaurant that is open seven days a week for lunch ad dinner and late night service will provide a better product to the university community and the Northtowns at large.”

If the bar had been caught allowing underage drinking, it’s unlikely the owners would have been able to keep the property or keep their liquor license. Papi Grande’s menu is set to include alcoholic beverages.

The U was one of three bars that worked with the Buffalo Police last semester to crack down on fake IDs and net 17 arrests. 

Despite some students’ outrage over the change, some students who had never been to the club seem more willing to try the restaurant, even though there are many other Mexican restaurants in the Buffalo area including El Palenque, Cantina Loco and Don Tequila Mexican Restaurant.

Alex Nudd, a senior business major, said he had never been to The U since he lives on South Campus, but that he would make a trip to North for a Mexican restaurant.

“I’ve never been to The U, but I like to eat,” said Drew Ventura, a junior cognitive science major. “Especially if they’re going to have fine dining, I’ll try it.”

Though the popular club is closed, management hopes the new restaurant will be a new up-and-coming hotspot that will provide an atmosphere The U couldn’t achieve.

Tori Roseman is the senior features editor and can be reached at