From basements to bars: Students explore Bethlehem’s nightlife

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Once “Closer” by The Chainsmokers turns off and the lights turn on, Lehigh students empty out of an East Fifth basement. Some head to Hawk’s Nest, some head home for the night and others head to Bethlehem’s bars.

Lehigh is neighbor to a handful of bars on the South Side, many of which are just a short walking distance from campus. Even though the No. 4 party school is known for its active off-campus Greek life, there has been a greater transition to spending nights at the bars for students who are of legal drinking age.

(Kelly McCoy/B&W Staff)

(Kelly McCoy/B&W Staff)

Leon’s bar, located on the 400 block of East Fifth Street, sits just below Lower Cents and has consistently been frequented by students due to its convenient location. Sotto Santi, FunHouse and Molly’s are all located on East Fourth Street, close to Farrington Square, and offer a range of events from live performances by local bands to trivia and karaoke.

Especially since the closure of the popular MacGrady’s Pub, located on East Third Street, students have flocked to other locations for late-night drinks.

There are also a few bars located further away from campus, such as Broadway Social. However, the bar that ranked highest, preferred by 25 percent of respondents in a Brown and White survey of 88 students, was Roosevelt’s, the option farthest from campus.

Roosevelt’s, also known as “Rosie’s” to many students, is located in North Bethlehem, just a minute away from Moravian College’s campus. It is owned by the Kassis family, whose two children attend Lehigh.

Owner Rocky Kassis has made an effort to get more Lehigh students to Roosevelt’s. He offers free shuttle services for students in groups of 10 or more as well as several different drink and food specials throughout the week, including $1 well drinks on Thursday nights. This option likely contributed to the 67 percent of students who said their favorite bar changes based on the night of the week.

Kassis said Roosevelt’s has become popular among Lehigh students, and on most Thursday nights, it has five to six buses coming to pick up students. Kassis also believes their family’s relationship with Lehigh has helped Roosevelt’s gain popularity.

“Anytime you have family at a school, it’s always going to help,” Kassis said.

Kassis said Roosevelt’s provides an atmosphere students will enjoy whether they attend Moravian or Lehigh.

Closer to campus, Broadway Social also offers a free shuttle service to bring Lehigh students from off campus to the bar on Broadway. Party promoters walk down East Fifth and other neighboring streets at night to attract students and also post in the Lehigh class Facebook pages. It has hosted college nights as well as special events for Lehigh students.

“They are definitely marketing to Lehigh students,” Bruke Mammo, ’17, said.

Mammo said he thinks Lehigh’s bar scene has never been the forefront of social life on campus. With Greek life’s presence, social events have typically stayed on campus or within control of campus groups, while other universities are known as “bar schools,” where the social scene relies heavily on neighboring bars.

This characteristic offers a different experience for Lehigh students who, if at all, tend to go to bars only after attending off-campus parties. Fifteen percent of students said they prefer off-campus parties to any of Bethlehem’s bar options, and Mammo said he thinks this is because off-campus parties are a better environment than bars.

“It’s under our control, what we say goes, and it’s more people that you know rather than strangers for the most part,” Mammo said.

He also mentioned a recent transition in Lehigh’s going-out culture, acknowledging that students are making their way to Bethlehem’s bars more than ever before.

“With LUPD having drones, and Lehigh in general really trying to crack down on off-campus life, there’s a shift being made,” Mammo said. “That shift is going to be toward registered parties or bars, and not everyone is going to have the chance to have a registered party because that’s specifically a Greek thing.”

Mammo said it also depends on what someone is looking for. He said if students are looking to just get a drink, then bars are a great option, but if one wants to dance and have fun with friends, bars may not be the best place for them.

Deepankar Roy, ’17, has also noticed more students attending bars over off-campus parties. However, from a Greek perspective, Roy believes Greeks attend their own events rather than frequent bars.

Roy said he prefers off-campus parties because he pays social dues toward his fraternity, and gets his money’s worth by attending, but bars offer a good alternative when an off-campus party isn’t an option.

“Any weekday we don’t have anything scheduled and I want to go and hang out with friends, bars would be the way to go,” Roy said.

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