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The Nightlife

The Old Pink
The Nightlife
As long as you don't let it get in the way of your studies, there's lots to explore when the sun goes down

You’re getting that hankering feeling again for the fall rush. With a healthy touch of youthful hubris and a dash of presumption, it’s time to strut back onto the scene. So what’s the best way to celebrate the new school year and prepare yourself for the inevitable snowed-in all nighters and caffeine tweaks? Open up a fresh chapter, broaden your horizons and explore. Buffalo has you covered for your book of romantic college adventures.

Elmwood Avenue, Allen Street and Chip Strip—there’s no correct way to jump into the conga line of bars and entertainment after the sun sets over Lake Erie. Though Buffalo is known for its intimate bar scene and open signs that shine bright through the wee hours, there’s something for everyone in this drinking city with a hockey problem.

Let’s start with the Old Pink (223 Allen Street), open nearly round the clock every day from 10am—4am. From the sidewalk it may look like a dark hole leading straight into the abyss, but don’t let that or thoughts of “Am I hipster enough?” deter you from entering. Sam Benatovich, a Buffalo night lifer and student at SUNY Buffalo Law School, says that regardless of age or era everyone has a story about “The Pink.” “It’s a little sketchy and it’s a little seedy, but that’s kind of part of its charm,” he says. “The Pink is very much a part of everyone who goes out in Buffalo’s life.”

If you’re on the lookout for something a little more inviting, stop by the corner classic McGarret’s (946 Elmwood Avenue). At this friendly community watering hole anyone can walk in just the way they are, even though it raises much of its popularity with the neighboring students at Buffalo State College. “McGarret’s is a grungy hole in the wall type of place where you can go and not get terribly fancied up and just hang out with your friends,” Benatovich says. They also sponsor two for one drinks on Tuesdays, and word on the street is that the bounty of free popcorn is extra buttery.

But what if you’re all the way down on Chippewa and you’re clad in your t-shirt and sneaks? Head over to City Tavern (51 W Chippewa Street). Aside from being known as the casual hub for Canisius College students, the uber popular downtown destination is noted for its patio and attractive bartenders. The locally famous patio also doubles as a dance floor and on Fridays DJ Anthony and Nik Stylz from Kiss 98.5 make an appearance.

Let’s say you’re into EDM and dancing like you’re wired up on sugar at a five-year-old’s birthday party. Buffalo isn’t known for its club scene, which is why LiFT Nightclub (257 Franklin Street) was brought to life last year downtown to change that. Don’t be mistaken, LiFT is a (cringe) “classier” nightclub that won’t cater to your fake I.D. or shambly attire. Hours are Friday and Saturday from 10pm—4am, and details to help you prep for that strict dress code can be found on their website.

Club Marcella (622 Main Street) also offers late night dancing at this friendly LGBT bar and dance club in Buffalo’s downtown Theater District. “It’s a gay club, but all are welcome,” says Veronica Percello, a recent graduate of SUNY Buffalo who had a blast at drag nights when she was an undergraduate. Another plus? It’s 18 and up. As long as you’re ready to hop on stage with some of the sassiest drag queens around, you’re in for a good time.

Another option for the underaged is Bottoms Up (69 W Chippewa Street) which welcomes customers aged 18 and up on Thursdays. “When I was an undergrad I always went downtown, and I would always go to Bottoms Up for ‘college nights,’” says Roxanne Cuebas, who spent both her undergraduate and graduate years at Buffalo State College. The dance floor is small but it gets jam-packed fast. Hours are Thursday through Saturday from 10am—4am.

If you’re in the mood for some fancier fare and you’re a fan of the man bun, then try out Buffalo Proper (333 Franklin Street). This relatively new bar and restaurant has two floors and it’s well known for its exquisite mixologists and sublime wall of bottled selections. “Buffalo proper is currently my favorite bar in buffalo,” Benatovich says. “The staff at Buffalo Proper is half of the reason that it’s great. It sets them above the other great bars.” Ask for a “Mr. Mule,” their spin-off of the Moscow Mule that’s made with fresh basil.

Allen Street Hardware

Allen Street Hardware (245 Allen Street) is also well-known people pleaser. The main attraction at duo bar and restaurant more commonly known as “Hardware” is its two bars with distinct DJ’s in the front and back, which gives you options to pick and choose from, depending on your preferred scene for the night. This is another Buffalo bar with excellent food. Hours are every day from 5pm—4am.

If you want to soak up the rich local music scene as much as your drink, then stroll over to the Sportsmen’s Tavern (326 Amherst Street) in Black Rock, just a stone’s throw away from Buffalo State College. Don’t let the “sports” throw you off, because the name of the game here is music—from hot locals to cool national acts. Walking into the Sportsmen’s Tavern is like coming home to the cozy shell of an old barn; two floors offer plenty of room to wander with a focus on the stage below churning out anything from the blues to bluegrass.

And if you’re still feeling your high school days lingering inside, you can take them center stage and finally belt out those inner pop punk rocker dreams in front of a live band at Waiting Room (334 Delaware Avenue). With Buffalo’s only live band karaoke, they offer punk rock karaoke on Wednesdays from 10pm—2am, in addition to rock radio, pop and ‘90s edition on Fridays from 11pm—3am. And if that’s not enough they also host alternative rock shows on the regular.

Buffalo Iron Works

Buffalo Iron Works (Illinois Street) also hosts entertainment and a particularly captive audience by the First Niagara Center in the historic Cobblestone District.

According to Benatovich the drinks are pricey and the beer selection is a bit dismal, but the venue’s excellent set up makes up for it. “I’m having fun again immediately as soon as I’m walking away from the bar” he says, who enjoyed a The Cure vs The Smiths dance party there this past year. Iron Works also frequently hosts shows with local and non-local bands.

If Iron Works isn’t working out for you, then check out a show at Helium Comedy Club (30 Mississippi Street) right around the corner in the Cobblestone District. This place isn’t known for its food, but the seating arrangement is intimate and there’s no funny business when it comes to its impressive line up of acts. Shows take place from Tuesdays through Saturdays and they have an open mic on most Tuesday nights at 8pm. This is also a great 18 and up venue for the underaged.

If live music is your thing, you’re also going to want to check out some shows at the Town Ballroom, Mohawk Place, the Tralf Music Hall, DBGB, Central Park Grill, and Broadway Joe’s. And when you need some late-night refueling, popular food spots include Allen Street Poutine Company, Jim’s Steak Out, Elmwood Taco & Sub, Lloyd’s Taco Truck, and Melting Point.

So can you gel with the ebb and flow of Buffalo’s jovial, charismatic and often kooky characters of the night? Most likely you’ll go home acquiring more than just frostbite in this city of good neighbors. “If you go to the same bar all the time, people eventually start recognizing you. They’ll let you in, you’ll get a free drink,” Cuebas says, recalling nostalgic nights as a student. “I think that Buffalo is a city that likes to party for any reason. You give us a reason and we’re there.”

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