New watering hole needs a twist: Owners should quench students’ wants

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October 3, 2011

11:36 PM

Some semblance of a vibrant nightlife has been the quixotic desire of students at the College of William and Mary. For all the historic charm and pastoral allure, the College lags behind the competition in promoting the kind of social scene that would jettison the colonial motif toward the modern age. All hope is not lost, however: The owner of Paul’s Deli plans to develop a late-night student bar and restaurant to complement his current property. While the addition has potential, clustering three bars in the same lot fails to enhance the viability of the social scene beyond the walls of our hallowed campus.

When applicants face their four years of college, two prevailing factors sway their decision: academic fidelity and student satisfaction. Few would doubt the integrity of the College’s intellectual prowess, but a perceived dissonance between the College and the local residents slows student-oriented development to a glacial pace. Laws pertaining to noise levels restrict the ability to construct late-night venues, which leads to quarantined fun zones — as we can see with the deli triangle.

The best campuses strike a balance between stunning architecture and a thriving community of independent shops that specifically target students. While the Tribe has access to Duke of Gloucester Street, most restaurants far exceed the budget of a typical college student. Furthermore, the fashion merchandise in Colonial Williamsburg is middling; one either finds fancy suits and Bill Cosby-esque sweaters marketed to retirees or colonial garb sold to elementary school students on field trips. These shopping opportunities stand in contrast to The Grind, which thrives on campus because it is convenient and replicates the authentic coffee house experience people seek when they leave home.

Another bar on Scotland Street will help combat these issues. Yet the novelty of a sports bar loses its luster if the space adds nothing new to social interaction. Paul’s Deli currently fills the void for sports junkies, and the College Delly now features a comfortable outdoor patio with a slightly different menu. Both bars are under the same management and ownership, and as the owner plans to expand his empire, how will the new bar distinguish itself from the other two?

The options are limitless in this regard, but I worry that the owner will play it safe. I am consistently surprised by how neither of the delis have pool tables or dart boards; I’d like to see more adventurous design changes. Why not offer a completely original menu? The interior design should take a cue from bars in major cities and give the impression of sumptuousness. Install a killer sound system that morphs the space into a quasi-dance club in the afterhours. The driving motto of the enw bar should be quality over quantity — otherwise, the owner will find an unlikely competitor in himself.

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