It has been almost two weeks since the College Delly closed its doors and destroyed the delicate balance that usually existed within Williamsburg nightlife. In my four years here, I have come to appreciate that each deli has a unique role to play in this balance of the College of William and Mary’s social atmosphere.
The Green Leafe, for instance, seems to be the most popular among students — although how much this has to do with it being marginally closer to campus, I don’t know. Its moderately upscale decor and extensive drink selection make it attractive to students who have — or think they have — some class and refined tastes. This is the place for snobs who only drink good beer and think that good beer excludes Bud Light. The food at the Leafe is similar to the beer selection: fancy and a bit pricey. The crowd there is largely composed of students, professors and the occasional well-off townie couple. The whole experience creates an atmosphere of classy sophistication, which devolves precipitously as the night progresses.
Paul’s Deli, my personal favorite, is just your standard deli. It doesn’t do anything special, but what it does it does excellently. Case in point: the lobster bisque. Food and drinks are relatively inexpensive with a standard bar menu and deli fare, but they are cooked perfectly, just the way you expect them. The drink menu, though less extensive than the Leafe’s is substantially cheaper, and the weekly specials are the best bargains around campus. The atmosphere at Paul’s is more “neighborhood bar” than the Leafe and, in my opinion at least, it has a more comfortable, familiar feel.
The College Delly also had its own niche. By day, College was a place to grab a quick sandwich — not that I or anyone I know has ever gone there to eat. By night, it became remarkably like one of the units, except you had to pay for beer. It had the outside patio — trellised a few years back to prevent jumpers — and unsightly, but indestructible, furniture. The doorman, who often doubled as a DJ was much better at his latter responsibility. Unlike the other delis, patrons did not trickle in in small groups. Instead, waves of revelers would wash into College all at once, filling the empty deli to capacity within moments.
The allure of College was not only its cheap beer, but also the atmosphere, which was unlike that of a restaurant or even a pub. At the right time, College was simply a party. You did not have to bother with little things like finding a table or cups for your pitcher. You simply walked around from table to table and found people to talk to. Eventually, the inside would be standing room only, and if the right song came on, an impromptu dance party broke out in front of the counter, where there was clearly no room for sitting. There was something great about the trashiness of the place. It offered something the other delis did not.
If the rumors I have been hearing are correct, then the new College Delly will, upon reopening, be a radically different place. It seems the owner of Paul’s has taken it over and plans to turn it into a tasteful establishment. This would destroy the legacy of College and leave students’ demand for a lax, shabby, cheap bar unfulfilled. Goodbye College.