Thursday crowd varies in Kent bars

Liz Buckley

Kent State alumna Angie Silva talks about her top three songs on the juke box at Glory Days in downtown Kent.

Credit: Andrew popik

It’s 9 p.m. on a Thursday.

There are still a few hours before the regular crowds shuffle into the bars of downtown Kent. Thursdays are the busiest nights for business. Students are ecstatic that the week is almost over.

Most students at Kent State know of the stereotypes associated with certain bars in downtown Kent. Ray’s Place and Glory Days Water Street Tavern are for sorority girls and fraternity boys, and Loft Pizza is the Everyman’s bar. The Zephyr Pub is known as the Party place, frequented by musicians and intellectuals.

Although there might be some truth to those assessments, the early hours of Thursday evenings give a different impression.

The Zephyr Pub

Patrons of the Zephyr are an eclectic mix of humanity. There is definitely an artistic element to the bar. The wall immediately to the left of the door is tiled in colorful ceramic, and bartender Rachel Jernigan’s paintings adorn the walls.

While the doorman with his dog-eared paperback and a customer checking his cell phone with an image of communist revolutionary Che Guevara adorning the screen might be intimidating to some, the Zephyr is probably the least intimidating bar in Kent. The sense of family is strong.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are. You can come here and feel comfortable,” said Jeremy White, 25, of Kent.

White is a cosmetologist at Cuttin’ Loose. He helpfully hands out his business cards to anyone who asks. “You’re Ugly! (But I Can Help),” the card reads. His rock-star mullet is streaked with bright red, and “GLAM ROCK” is tattooed across his fingers. As Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” begins to play, White freezes.

“Who’s responsible?” White screams, rising up off of his stool at the bar. He looks around accusingly. A group of women gathered at the high-top tables in front of the window happily take the blame. The bar erupts with singing as the chorus begins to play: “You’re motoring! What’s your price for flight and finding Mr. Right? You’ll be all right tonight.”

The women responsible for the song in question met as undergraduates at Kent State about four or five years ago. They now call themselves the Portage County Young Professionals Club and meet at the Zephyr every Thursday night. The women said the bar has the best music selection.

“It’s the guilty pleasures soundtrack,” said Emily Sullivan, 24, who graduated from Kent State last year.

If anyone thinks the bar caters only to a certain type of person, the jukeboxes should dispel that notion. The wide range of music choices provides something for everyone, from Talking Heads to OutKast.

“Michael Jackson is in heavy rotation,” said Jessica Sabin, 27, a 2002 Kent State graduate and Portage County Young Professional.

Two young men sit at the far end of the bar, nursing their beers quietly. There’s a different mood in different bars, said Brian Brearley, junior English and philosophy major.

His friend agreed, as the two began to play Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide who would go pick up the burritos at nearby Taco Tonto’s.

“It’s more low-key here,” said Joe Melnyck, a former Kent State student. “Not every guy is looking at the hottest girl in the bar.”

The Zephyr does seem like less of a meat market than the other bars of downtown Kent. People appear to be more interested in their drinks than possible hook-ups.

“Especially being a girl, I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to another bar alone,” bartender Frances Penney said.

Loft Pizza

Loft Pizza, which doesn’t serve pizza anymore, attracts a wide range of people.

Locals hang out during the day, said Randall Gregory, manager and 1993 Kent State graduate. College students come in Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

“The decor is a big part of it,” Gregory said, referring to the rustic appearance of the bar.

Ian Grzybowski, senior marketing major, came to the Loft with some friends from work.

“It’s a really relaxed bar,” he said.

His friend Marco Esquandolas, 35, and a self-described townie, agreed. It’s not all one type of person, he said. Anyone from a tattoo artist to a football player goes to the Loft.

Esquandolas also praised the beer at the Loft.

“You can get good pitchers of beer here,” he said, “and not just Pabst but fat pitchers of beer like Sierra and Bass.”

Decades of students have come to the Loft and have left their mark by carving initials and messages into the booths. The clientele can get a little crazy. One patron decided he didn’t want to be quoted in the Daily Kent Stater and ate the piece of paper his comments had been written on.

Ray’s Place

Ray’s Place draws a random selection of people, but people who go to the Zephyr aren’t coming to Ray’s, said Katie Ulrich, senior English education major and bartender. Ray’s gets older groups of people during the lunch and dinner hours.

“It’s a big alumni place,” Ulrich said.

Ray’s Place is known for its burgers and large selection of beers. It has a number of Great Lakes Brewery beers on tap, which sets it apart from the other bars in the area.

Tim Coennen, junior flight technology major, said he comes to Ray’s for the atmosphere and tries to go once or twice a week.

It’s relaxed, and people can hang out with anyone, he said, sitting at the upstairs bar and drinking a Bud Light. All kinds of people come here, Coennen said.

“I like it better when it’s busier,” he said.

Glory Days Water Street Tavern

Glory Days is quiet at 10 p.m. Only a handful of people are seated at the bar and the surrounding booths. Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” is playing in a bar that will be packed in two hours. The jukebox will get a workout later on, with three songs in particular getting heavy play.

“‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ will be played,” said Angie Silva, 23, 2004 Kent State graduate. “(And) ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me.’ They always play that song.”

Silva said she loves the look of Glory Days.

“I used to live in New York,” she said, and Glory Days is set up like a New York City bar with the way the liquor bottles are arranged and it looks like a New York bar with the painted ceiling.

“It’s sexy,” Silva said.

Contact enterprise reporter Liz Buckley at [email protected].