When underage drinking is a persistent and unrelenting force that universities attempt to combat, the University of Massachusetts U-Pub hides in the Campus Center as one of the two places on campus where of-age students can legally drink and choose to have a pint between classes. On the concourse level of the Campus Center, concealed in the corner next to Harvest, the UMass U-Pub resides. An actual bar on a college campus seems like a contradictory establishment to have operating on a large public school with a heavy binge drinking reputation, but U-Pub continues to operate as a popular hangout spot for graduate students, professors and undergraduates during the busy week.
The casual atmosphere of U-Pub invites students to pull out their laptops and get a surprising amount of homework done while sipping on a delicious alcoholic beverage of their choice. Littered throughout the interior of the U-Pub is a diverse representation of UMass’s upper classmen.
Students are dug into the corners of the bar with laptops and chargers, grad students crowd close on a high-top table as if they were staring into a witch’s caldron while they discuss the lessons for lectures and undergrads sip from a communal pitcher post lecture. A high, long booth stretches the perimeter of the distant warm aqua wall can be crowded like a courtside bench one night or barren and begging for seating the next. With the U-Pub, it’s hard to tell as the Campus Center experiences high foot traffic, which gives the bar an opportunity to scoop in customers that just happen to pass by. Many students choose the U-Pub for their meeting place between classes as there’s always a constant wave of students flowing in and out as classes begin and end.
The U-Pub doesn’t feel like an average sports bar, but I also wouldn’t call it much of anything else besides a bar that happens to be on a college campus. The pool table in the back and the giant bottle cap sign with “U-Pub” sprawled on it with that classic UMass font, the neon bar signs begs for the label “sports bar.” The TV displaying news channels and the music they choose to play however, begs to be called something else. One minute, Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” breaches through conversation and the next it’s fun.’s “Some Nights.”
U-Pub’s identity seems to rest in the fact that it is a small college bar that gets to hang its hat in the heart of the UMass campus. The bar is different from many other bars in the Amherst area, but arguably for the better. The bars that line North Pleasant street, from The Spoke to High Horse, have their own flavor and allure and U-Pub is no different. Chaotic and lively bars are, I hope, the last place any student would want to dig into their homework, but at the U-Pub, you’re almost invited to. It’s a meeting place to work on homework assignments and group projects as much as the library’s group study rooms are. It finds the middle ground in a study room and a casual bar.
Part of the U-Pub’s identity comes from its location and with that location comes the atmosphere and in that atmosphere, studiousness and hops dance through the air to make a delicious concoction of busy students working with, instead of a cup of coffee next to them, a refreshing glass of a Bel-Air Brooklyn Sour beer. While the U-Pub is a well-established bar for those 21 and older, the fact you can go with the intention to get homework done makes it all the more enticing and fascinating.
The U-Pub remains closed on Saturdays and Sundays; probably best for all parties involved. It would be hard on the staff or the University as a whole to accompany of-age students getting drunk on a Saturday in the Campus Center, a bubbling hub for campus tours, prospective students and occasional hotel residents. The Monday through Friday hours that run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. leave more than enough time for post class pitchers, brain scratching trivia and vivacious open night mics, which may feature guest appearances from Blue Wall staff, as they know the open mic schedule like they know the menu for The Grill or Tamales.
The variety of drinks at U-Pub is what you would expect from a small, casual bar. Staple beers such as Bud Light, Heineken, Budweiser and others are available in bottles and cans. With wine and IPAs also on the menu, it’s nice to know there are other options when one gets tired of pitchers of Coors Light.
For those just turning 21 or already of-age, the UMass U-Pub should find a place on your list of bars to try this Friday. Whether it be to have a pitcher with friends after a long day of classes or to get some homework done before the weekend truly kicks off, the U-Pub is the best place on campus to kill two birds with one stone. What better way to kick off the weekend than a pitcher with your friends on campus grounds?
Quinn He can be reached at [email protected]