Post-Baccalaureate Bar Hopping

City Paper

Flash forward. You’re now a resident of the Greatest City In America—an official resident. Your lease does not expire at the end of the semester. Your lease expires when you want it to. You’ve made it through college boot camp and have now entered into (gasp!) the real world. Besides taking care of that thing called employment, you have other technical aspects of your new stage of existence to determine—like where to go for nightlife.

If you were a student of any of Baltimore’s local campuses, you had a built-in itinerary for late night diversion, which was: wherever the crowd happened to be going at the time. This could change with the year, or even the month, always carrying with it a certain air of mystery. But the places were all the same—just another college bar populated with everyone you ever wanted to see (or avoid) from campus.

The longer it is since graduation, the more these places start to lose their charm. You start to know fewer and fewer people as the new batch of young academics arrive. You may want to meet other 20-somethings who are actually your age and not worry about hitting on some freshman who doesn’t know anything yet and is just happy to be there. And you realize that there are places much better than the cramped, beer-sloshed mecca you could get into with a fake ID.

Like many college students, I made little effort to create roots in the Baltimore that was my college town. My idea of the city was Loyola’s backyard, Cold Spring Lane and York Road, coupled with some excursions into the Harbor and to whatever other bar the college kids had taken over. With one exception.

My junior year, my friends and I decided to battle boredom by trying our hands at salsa dancing. We had seen the salsa club practicing on campus and were intrigued by the fact that you could actually do this socially in Baltimore. So we Googled “salsa dancing” and picked the first club that came up—Latin Palace (recently found to be operating sans entertainment license—those rebels!). We walked through the loud, neon archway, a stark contrast with the subdued buildings next door, to an interior of brightly colored pink flamingos and palm trees. Tables framed the spacious dance floor, as if expecting a performance. Once crowded, the place turned into a whirlwind of bodies switching from one dancer to the next, each with his own unique style—some of them good, some of them not so much. But we didn’t care. We plopped down at Loyola’s midnight breakfast exhausted and happy, each exchanging stories of our partners’ quirks—coming up with nicknames to identify who we were talking about (Smiles and Ponytail, to name a few).

The best part about discovering salsa was that we never felt out of place as college students—after all, there were many of us there—but now we’re going on our third year post-college, and we don’t feel as if our time is running out. The scene is rife with 20-somethings, as well as clubbers upward of 30. But you don’t have to like salsa dancing to get the same benefit.

Flash forward to the present day. You are in college and you’re about to go to one of those places again. But instead, maybe you take a night off and find yourself in a new bar, where the people are unfamiliar but the vibe is not—you see shot-taking college clientele dancing to the beat of their alcoholic buzz. But you also see the regulars who are here every weekend with their friends—dancing, boozing, mingling with the Baltimore crowd that’s here to stay. If this becomes your corner bar, the transition from college to that elusive real world just got a little bit easier.

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