Colby’s impact on the local bar scene: a symbiotic relationship?

Every Thursday night, at around 10:45 p.m., one will likely see swarms of Elite taxis and the Colby jitney heading down from the hill into downtown Waterville for the weekly Colby College bar night. After a long, strenuous week filled with meetings, tests, workouts, and more, Colby students are always eager to get off campus for a chance to interact and let loose with their friends and classmates in a new environment. Whether it’s Silver Street Tavern, Mainely Brews, or The End Zone – to name the most frequented bars – the Colby students interviewed say that bar night is something they look forward too.

Senior class presidents Tim Gallagher ’16 and Mara Badali ’16 communicate between the bars in Waterville and the senior class to set up a schedule so that every student knows which bar to head to on Thursday night. Students say that having this schedule and establishing a bar to host ensures that all Colby students end up in the same place, allowing students to meet and interact with new people, which strengthens the overall relationship between students. Colby students say they look forward to bar night as a way to break up the monotony of life on campus. Whether it’s Silver Street Tavern (more commonly known as Viper), Mainely’s, End Zone, or the less-frequented Cancun, bar night always brings a large crowd in which one is unlikely to find a non-Colby face. While bar night is certainly a favorite among students, the question is whether bar night ultimately helps strengthen the relationship between Colby and the local Waterville community.

Bar night presents Colby with the opportunity to support local communities and restaurants. The Mainely Brews manager stated that Mainley’s always makes a great profit off of Colby bar night and that they “enjoy supporting Colby students and providing them with a safe place to come and have fun.” While the night is always busy, they enjoy seeing the big turnout of Colby students and hearing Colby students sing as they perform at Mainely’s renowned karaoke. Overall, the manager said that over the years, the number of students who attend bar night has remained fairly consistent, though they definitely see a decrease in numbers in the winter. Similarly, The End Zone expressed their appreciation of Colby bar night, as it also brings in a large profit for them. The manager of the End Zone said that she has been “happy to see an increase in the number of students who attend bar night at The End Zone.” Colby students will sometimes even come to The End Zone before bar night begins, to have some wings and hangout before other students begin to pile in. Silver Street Tavern owner Charlie Giguere also says that bar night is a very profitable  and well attended event that they look forward to hosting every few weeks. In particular, Colby students like the Silver Street  Tavern for their downstairs nightclub, Club Spirits, which is unique to the establishment. Giguere mentioned that “Colby students are always well behaved and there is no trouble between them and the locals of Waterville.”

However, Colby students’ enjoyment and liking of the local bars does not just stop at bar night. Giguere explains that there have been “more and more Colby students coming on nights other than Thursday nights.” For instance, he explained that a large group of students came for dinner this past Sunday night. Similarly, Kat Mackey ’16 explains that she “often heads to The End Zone with friends on days other than Thursday nights, to watch a big game or get some wings.” She says that she has even been able to form a friendly relationship with the owner’s wife as well as her son and the bartender, Jamie. It is exciting for both Colby and the local Waterville population to see  the mutual appreciation and enjoyment students have for the local bars.

Around 1:00 a.m. on Thursday nights, when the bars cut off their taps and close up the bar, Colby students exit the bar to hail a cab back to campus. However, many students don’t want their night to end just yet, and they instead head to other local restaurants that are still open. Waterville House of Pizza, more commonly known to Colby students as WHOP, is a frequent post-bar night venue due to its proximity to most of the Waterville bars. Waterville House of Pizza employees confirm that many more walk-in orders are placed on Thursday and that they also profit from the business of Colby students on bar nights.

While it is obvious that bar night allows Colby students to support local businesses while also having fun, conerns have been raised that Colby student’s entertainment can come at the expense of that of the local community and people who frequent the bars in Waterville. Silver Street Tavern, Mainely Brews, and The End Zone all confirmed that while there is no rule forbidding any locals or people outside of Colby from entering the bars,  with the manager of Mainely’s saying that, “locals tend to stay away or leave earlier if they know Colby students will be arriving on that night.” Most students interviewed also say that they see very few non-Colby faces, with the exception of some Thomas College students. It is very possible that the lack of Waterville residents’ presence at bar night is simply because these locals wish to allow Colby students to have the venue to themselves, or they are overwhelmed by the large number of students who pour into the doors around 11:00 p.m. It is possible that locals are being deterred from going to these bars on Thursday nights because of Colby students’ behavior or their attitude towards the Colby community. Elisa Rascia ’16 says, “Colby students can often be rude and disrespectful to the bars and bartenders.” The manager of the End Zone also noted that while Colby students are well behaved overall, there are some exceptions where students are disorderly and less respectful. Despite this, none of the bar managers mentioned any recent incidents of disturbances or fights caused by Colby students. Local resident Melissa Bardsley says, “the relationship is a positive one and offers the community some extra business but not extra headaches, which is beneficial.”

Most of students interviewed seem to agree that Colby bar night is a fun, safe, and profitable night for all involved.  In addition, students pointed out that they think the social scene at the bars is in fact much safer than on campus, as students are usually more in control and aware of their surroundings and how much they have to drink.  Students interviewed also argued that it is very uncommon for a student to end up in the hospital from drinking too much on a Thursday night, as compared to a Friday or Saturday night of on-campus festivities at Colby. Considering the new focus on strengthening the Colby-Waterville relationship, the positive economic impact of bar night points towards future success between the Colby community and local businesses.

Leave a Reply