Archive for the ‘Bars’ Category

SAFEride faces cutbacks

December 29, 2009

According to the State Journal, starting next semester students are only going to be allowed to get free late-night cab rides through the SAFEride program six times a semester, rather than the previous allotment of 16.

The program, which is funded through student fees, ran over its budget by almost 50 percent last year, said Michael Romenesko, a member of a student-led transportation committee.

He said people are abusing the program, using it as their own personal cab service rather than as a backup in emergency situations, the purpose for which it was designed.

I know that is the only reason I ever used it. It always took an hour or more to actually get picked up by a cab through SAFEride, making it hardly a go-to move for a student in an emergency situation late at night, but certainly a go-to when you have a party to get home from that was a little off campus.

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Mad Madison bars getting sold

December 2, 2009

The Nitty. The Pub. Now Buck’s.

Now, the majority of my downtown elitist readership has never visited Buck’s Madison Square Garden, located on Regent, in between Park and West Washington. But you would do yourselves a favor by checking it out. Much of what makes Buck’s great – the bartenders who harass you for not drinking fast enough or ordering unmanly drinks – may be perverted by the new owners. Buck’s might sell out. Here is an excerpt from my review of the bar this summer:

The bartender and his team of regulars can be counted on to taunt customers for not drinking enough – just play along and politely decline. The best explanation would definitely be money. Studying and driving are not generally considered acceptable excuses to abstain from inebriation. The catcalls do not abide by campus norms of political correctness or social awareness.

Nevertheless, the State-Langdon Neighborhood Association will be meeting tomorrow night at 6 pm in Room 3155 of the Student Activities Center to discuss Bucks’ new liquor license. In case you forgot, when a bar gets new ownership it needs to reapply for a liquor license. Why is State-Langdon discussing a bar on Regent St? If anything this reveals the policy intent behind the organization: to be a student counter to Capitol Neighborhoods Inc.

The Pub to be sold

October 19, 2009

According to Ald. Mike Verveer, who sits on the Alcohol License Review Committee, The Pub is in the process of being sold. The transfer of its liquor license from the family that has owned the establishment for decades, the Schweglers, to an unnamed new owner, is scheduled to come before the ALRC in November.

Hence, the renovations and the low-price promotions the current owners oversaw in August were all part of a plan to demonstrate the bar’s continued potential to possible buyers.

Cardinal bar back in action

October 10, 2009

A four month hiatus! That’s a tough one to sustain. To get the people back in the door you must need a big promotion to the get word out. Apparently as soon as the word was out, however, the Cardinal partisans were out in force.

By 11:45, about 500 people had walked through the doors of the “new” Cardinal. A large crowd was bopping on the new wood dance floor, smooth and inviting (and a much-needed change from the tile flooring now buried underneath, which provided all the comfort and acoustics of dancing in a bathroom). The ancient disco balls are gone. The place feels new without losing any of its 35-plus-year history as a club.

Just like the Plaza, there is something eerily cult-like about the Cardinal:

That history was no more evident than in the diversity of the crowd, from early 20s to 60s. That’s a range of ages not often represented in Madison bars, where people tend to stick with their peers.

I have yet to have the pleasure. I will try to make my way over there ASAP for a bar review.

The Library (the bar)

September 18, 2009

The Library is a chill place. If you’re ever looking for a good gin and tonic and some light reading, such as The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, or War and Peace, the Library is the place to put up your boots. There’s a roaring fire, the music is calming, and the tvs are usually showing sporting events. Also, if you live on the West side of campus it’s a good alternative to the nearby Stadium Bar.

A word of advice: at least one of their bartenders has no idea how to make a bloody mary. It’s not that it tastes bad – but it might burn the taste buds right off your tongue. Three of us got them last gameday, figuring it would be a good morning drink, and only two of us were able to finish them because they were so saturated in Tabasco sauce.

The Pub

September 10, 2009

I’ve been meaning to address this pressing issue for some time.

The Pub, an institution of Madison inebriation since 1948, was recently renovated. I mean really renovated. Except for one of the bar tenders, hardly any part of the interior resembles the former establishment. The picnic tables and benches are gone, replaced instead by posh oval tables with high chairs and plush booths. The colors are co-ordinated (at least according to my more perceptive friends) and the place feels…clean.

The prices are so low that you are forced to believe they are only low for this short promotionary period. $1.25 taps of domestic anytime. There is no competition for that anywhere downtown. With deals that good, other bars are inevitably going to depend on “atmosphere” arguments. When I pointed this out to a bartender at the City, which is practically next door, she bluntly replied that you “can’t compare us to the Pub.” According to her, I should be willing to pay $2.50 for a bud light to play trivia in an underground den. Unfortunately I might continue to do that because I do really like trivia.

And yet, something died a long with the vomit stained tiles that now lay in a nearby dump. The soul of the Pub, defined in recent memory by a vagrant or semi-vagrant clientele, but also encompassing the distant memories of many former students, including my dad, who got his first legal drink there in 1973 (drinking age 18),  has ascended to tavern heaven, and will never  return. The loud, trendy music that emanates from the jukebox, the hordes of sorority girls grinding on their Greek counterparts…it’s an opportunity opened for some, but perhaps a more valuable one closed to others.

Lucky’s: A bar with a lot of tvs

August 27, 2009

I was at Lucky’s for the first time in a long time yesterday evening. I had come for the famous Lucky’s trivia, which I was surprised to learn is run by an outside contractor. Really? Isn’t there one guy on staff who can look through Wikipedia and come up with some 20 questions?

Lucky’s is a big bar. It’s got two big rooms and there is a notice above the urinals that boats more than 50 tvs in the bar. It’s not hard to believe – there seemed to be every baseball game possible going on, including my beloved Phillies.

The drink specials were considerably better than the ones on trivia night at the City. At the City, they advertise $2.50 Bud Light bottles, whereas Lucky’s was offering two-for-one Bud Light bottles – I believe for around $3. Much better deal. They also have $1 corndogs.

Thursday night is the night to be at Lucky’s. It’s virtually impossible to beat a $1 tap deal offered – although my brother once told me of a place in Philadelphia where they’d offer you the beer for half the price if you shotgunned it.

Bars: The Plaza

August 21, 2009

How cliché. I went to the Plaza for the first time since moving in practically next door and who do I run into other than Danny Spirn of the Critical Badger and Mac Verstandig, the flamboyantly right wing former editor-in-chief of the Badger Herald. After reminding Verstandig about the last time I had seen him – which featured Verstanding in a new McCain-Palin polo, pontificating to the herald office about Florida’s unbreakably red character – I went to the bar to inquire about drink specials, but more importantly, the famous Plaza burger.

Drink specials weren’t that bad. Top-o-the-line rum cocktails for $2.50 on a Tuesday night and $2 off pitchers. Top shelf rum is cool, but when you offer that deal, it makes a guy like me imagine an even cheaper drink with rail rum. Just a suggestion. I think I’m going to make that one in person as well, since the staff seemed very friendly – and oddly sophisticated.

The burger was pretty good, although it’s not very big. There’s some kind of ranch sauce they put on it. The Plaza definitely has cheap bar food, which, believe it or not, is something that quite a few Madison bars lack.

During the day the inside of the bar is an eye sore. A long hall of white floor, almost completely devoid of sunlight. But at night there’s something that happens to the Plaza that brings out a certain charm that apparently has worked for decades. It’s garnered somewhat of a cult status in certain Madison circles, as noted by the Critical Badger.

Good food, good drinks, good people. Now that Ramhead is closed, I can comfortably say the Plaza is the best bar on my block.

Groups look to re-open Cafe Montmartre

August 6, 2009

Cafe Monmartre, a bar and restaurant I once described as “much better than Wando’s,” may be back in action soon. One of the people rumored to be organizing a team of investors told me not to spread speculation on future ownership, so I will not mention names. Has the press also followed this request, or is it just totally out of the loop? It’s a story I’ve heard from several sources, including from a member of the city council.

Questions that interest me – how much would a purchase cost? Are the current owners going to absorb a loss on the sale, and was profitability the main issue in the decision to close the bar? What will the new owners do to make the place profitable? I’ve heard talk about decreasing the emphasis on the “restaurant.” The vast majority of patrons were there to get a drink and listen to music but the place nevertheless boasted a gourmet menu, which may have been a drag on profits. Unfortunately these are questions that have not appeared in the press yet.

Granted, bars and restaurants come and go all the time. But I would much prefer to see reports on those little slices of social drama than the endless reports of crime that plaster the front pages of the State Journal and Cap Times. The front page of Madison.com (the joint site of the Journal and the Times) has featured the mug of some guy who committed a murder 20 years ago for what feels like an eternity, and I have yet to bother clicking on the story. OK, now I finally did so I could show it to you, dear reader who loves crime stories because you see it as a manifestation of Shakespearean drama in the 21st century.

Weekend bar suggestion: Skip the Nitty

July 31, 2009

Power hour is a great deal. But the Nitty is not. How many drinks can you possibly get in that hour anyway when it takes five minutes to navigate through the sea of debauchery to get to the bar? A dollar for a weak screwdriver isn’t such a bad deal – but why not just make it at home, with friends? Obviously a significant portion of you choose to drink to the point where conversation is a daunting task, but that’s supposed to come later in the night, after you’ve had the chance to catch up with old chums.

The Nitty Gritty inhibits social interaction. The music is so loud the walls tremble – the shouting necessary to communicate will inevitably leave you with a sore throat to supplement your hangover.