College Week

11 beloved college bars that closed too soon

The college bar is a mythical place where a student's real skill sets are developed, starting with the ability to balance an 8am philosophy class with the aftermath of a night soaked in booze and energy drinks.

Every college has a few of these cherished watering holes, but in today's tumultuous age of condo developments and kitchen fires, even the most holy of student sanctuaries is no longer safe. In memory of these legendary off-campus campus institutions that closed far too soon, we've compiled a list of 11 beloved college spots that will always have a place in our admittedly fuzzy memories.

The Tasty

Years: 1916-1997

OK, so it wasn't really a bar. But definitely filled with an after-hours bar crowd. The Tasty is now a little nook housing a few ATMs, but it was once a vibrant melting pot of meat and cheese where Bostonians -- ranging from Harvard professors to homeless people -- would congregate for some of the cheapest late-night sandwiches in the city. It was immortalized in Good Will Hunting as the diner where Matt Damon and Minnie Driver finally broke all that sexual tension with a kiss that tasted like pickles.

Common Grounds

University of Florida

Although their bathrooms supposedly rivaled the foulness of the legendary CBGB's, Common Grounds pumped life into the Gator music scene with a steady flow of cheap beers, up-and-coming local acts like Against Me!, and national touring acts like Dick Dale and George Clinton, who had previously forgotten that Gainesville could be a viable tour stop. In rare fashion, the owners decided to call it quits on their own accord, going against rock & roll tradition by neither burning out nor fading away.

The Stone Balloon

University of Delaware
Years: 1972-2005
So beloved that its "early years" actually inspired a 154-page book, The Stone Balloon hosted the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Metallica, was the set of an early MTV broadcast, and, throughout its 33-year run, sold over 20,000 beer mugs that were refillable on Thursdays for only $1. It was once Budweiser's largest bar account nationwide. It is now a very nice condo building.

Crabby Jacks

Florida Atlantic University
Years: Late '80s-2011

Yep, that looks like Florida alright. Pimps 'n Hoes parties like the one pictured above were much of the dive bar's bread and butter, as well as a solid seafood selection and what one Yelper claims to be "the best salad in the world!!! OMG". The joint closed in 2011 after a fire burned it to the ground, but even had the 50 firefighters on the job succeeded at quelling the flames, the bar was apparently several months late on their rent and facing eviction, possibly at the hands of a particularly intimidating pimp asking for his money.

Rudy’s Bar and Grille


Just about every student to ever step into a Yale classroom had their name etched into the wooden walls of Rudy's. The gritty dive was tended by the same barkeep for over 50 years, until the owners packed up shop and moved to a new location with more Belgian beers and less charm, leading many locales to mockingly refer to it as New Rudy's.

Our House

Boston College and Boston University
It was called a house for a reason. Unlike most bars, with a logical structure, Our House twisted and turned, like you were essentially in that Disneyland Haunted Mansion ride, but a bar. What’s this over here? Oh, it’s a room with Buck Hunter and another game. How about in here? Oh, those are random couches and a foosball table. It was a mess, but it was a grand mess, and living over in the Allston Commonwealth Ave area meant going to watch The Simpsons, or play trivia, or order those really weirdly cheap Brubakers, which smelled like sour milk from the outside, but tasted fine for $2 for 20oz. The burger was really good too. There is still Our House East, which is on Gainsborough over by Northeastern, but it’s not the same. After all, it looks like a real bar.

O'Connell's Irish Pub and Grill

University of Oklahoma
Years: 1968-2011
Although the pub reopened in a new location after OU purchased the stadium-neighboring real estate, Thrillist's resident Sooner thinks that there's no way to replace the history that comes with 3.5 million gallons of beer served:

"Well, it had newspaper clippings of OU's sporting triumphs over the decade, which you could read while eating nachos, but really it was the type of place where you'd go on St. Patrick's Day, remember seeing some friends and drinking some really huge green beers, and then spend most of the next day with your partners-in-hangover trying to figure out what the hell happened, why only one person remembers a 3am Taco Bell run (turns out he ran, literally), and why your bro is laying in the driveway. Also, there was this really awesome door that led nowhere. RIP Original O'Connell's."

Raleigh’s Bar & Grill

University of California, Berkeley
Years: 1980-2011
Nothing says "college" quite like decent burgers and questionable ID policies. Raleigh's was known for both, as well as a decent tap list, a ton of TVs, and one of the best patios in Berkeley. Sadly, a raging fire took out Raleigh's, as well as the neighboring Cafe Intermezzo. It was rebuilt, but closed after problems with said ID policies, only to reopen lacking its old charm.

Texas Showdown Saloon

University of Texas at Austin
Years: 1982-2008

Showdown served as a "community center with beer" for UT students and the greater Austin slacker population for 26 years, until it was ironically replaced by the far less authentic-feeling watering hole called "The Local". The bar attracted such a dedicated group of patrons that there was a quasi-official membership program with 200 numbered steins hanging from the ceiling that belonged to individual patrons. Happy Minutes began every day at 3pm, during which time beers cost less than a buck. And several lucky members a night who had their numbers called would actually drink for free! God bless Showdown.

The Small Planet

Michigan State University

A magical place where local bands shone, and where The Verve Pipe first crooned "we were merely freshmen" to actual freshmen, East Lansing's Small Planet was MSU's best spot for hearing bands that didn't just play covers of "Louie Louie" on a nightly basis. When the venue closed, it took with it the dreams of every flannel-sporting guitarist on campus. There was a brief resurrection way out off campus in the late aughts, drawing legit groups like Electric Six to the outskirts of Spartlandia, but it was a short-lived dream that never materialized. Kind of like The Verve Pipe's career.

The Haunt

Cornell and Ithaca College
Years: 1969-1997

Despite being a tiny room that could maybe hold 200 Big Red Bears and Bombers at the most, it was a stop for every major jam band of the day: String Cheese, Disco Biscuits, and Phish all played there in the '80s to people who probably don't remember the '80s. The doorway was adorned with hundreds of fake IDs posted as terribly ineffective warnings to underage clientele. Cornell professor and Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin once played a dangerously crowded secret show there. Alas, when the venue moved to a new, bigger location, longtime patrons felt it lost most of its jammy charm.

Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food and drink team. Every minute he spent in Showdown was a happy one. Follow him to old Austin nostalgia at @Dannosphere.

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