From board games to smoke machines: A night at BarHop
We arrive at BarHop a little after 10 p.m. and manage to avoid waiting outside. I have dragged my roommate along to check out this Dartmouth social space, and the night’s theme is “Winter Masquerade.” Accordingly, masks, feathers, sequins and glue are spread out on a side table, inviting guests to create their own costumes. The room we enter, one of three, is bathed in orange-yellow light. Bartender Whitney Martin ’17 explained the event’s layout.
“The rooms increase in their level of ‘ragey-ness’ as you go along,” Martin said. “The first room is very chill. You’re cool to sit down and chat with people. The second room has got tabletop games, sometimes some dancing and a DJ, and then the third room has strobes — lights are off — smoke machines and all that.”
San Pellegrino in hand, I evaluate the scene. It certainly smells nicer than a frat basement, and it has more drink choices. It does, however, seem a bit barren. Due to the rather low fire-code-mandated capacity, the venue never feels completely full. Combined, the three rooms hold 150 people at a time. Although patrons under 21 are welcome, alcoholic drink distribution is strictly regulated with colored wristbands, and the event is clearly more popular within the upperclassman crowd. Nearly everyone I see is drinking a beer.
“It’s not great if you’re not 21,” Martin said.
Held each Thursday from 9:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. in the Hop Garage, BarHop, along with other events like Collis Center’s Microbrew Mondays and open mic nights, provides varied options for socializing on campus. BarHop’s free alcoholic beverages and club-like atmosphere are its primary attractions. Created in 2014, BarHop is student-driven — the people manning the doors and tending the bars are all Dartmouth students like Martin and fellow bartender Cady Whicker ’17.
To Whicker, BarHop provides students with a unique social experience.
“It’s a space that facilitates creativity — we always try to do something arts-related,” Whicker said. “It’s a good activity to do together, when you’re sitting around with your friends.”
BarHop’s theme changes each week. Past BarHops have featured dance lessons, jewelry-making collaborations with the jewelry studio and various musical performances. BarHop staff brainstorm new activities each week, paying attention to what works and what doesn’t.
“We do keep tabs on how well-received things are,” Martin said. “If something goes really well, we try to bring it back, to cater to what people like.”
In the second room, the music is wonderfully loud, and excited chatter spills from the gaggles of students clustered around tables. There’s another bar in this room. My roommate suggests we spend more time in this second room; she says the blue light makes her look good.
“I have a little vanity problem,” she admits, checking herself out in the mirrors tilted against the wall.
I am more than willing to play one of the board games located at each table. We are joined by a friend as we sit down to play Uno. I don’t actually know how to play Uno. I lose. Vaguely bitter about my loss, I suggest we check out the final room. We join another line of people waiting to enter the third room.
According to Martin, lines are normal.
“What inevitably happens is that everyone wants to get into that third, really ragey room,” Martin said. “The line will form in the second room, and once that fills up with people, a line will form in the first room. That’s the biggest complaint, that people can stand in line all night and not get to the actual party part.”
BarHop’s capacity issues haven’t kept it from growing in popularity, according to Whicker.
“Last year, when I started working there, it was more niche,” she said. “It was more seniors and people that are involved in the Hop or involved in arts. I think over the last year we’ve seen it become very much more mainstream. I’ve seen all different groups come to BarHop and really enjoy it. We’ve seen it in the numbers, too. It’s definitely become more popular in the last year.”
As we patiently wait our turn to enter the third room, others in line periodically attempt to turn the second room into a dance floor, loudly singing along to the incoming tunes and pleading with their friends to dance with them.
A bottle clanks as it hits the floor in the next room, and I wonder what lies ahead. We’re finally allowed through thin black curtains.
By the time people have been allowed to enter the third room, they’ve had more than enough time to down a few beers. The crowd is clearly feeling the music. A tall guy in an open-necked rugby shirt sways uncertainly with the beat, eyes closed, beer in hand. Some people dance in groups, and others chat on the edges of the dance floor. Even this room feels empty — it’s at capacity, but the few dozen attendees cluster in the center, leaving plenty of space around them. The extra space doesn’t seem to bother the dancers, and everyone appears to be enjoying themselves.
Having danced to our collective contentment, we exit, knowing our spaces in the third room will immediately be filled by grateful students waiting in the second.
With its focus on combining creativity and late-night fun, BarHop has created a unique space on campus.
“I can’t think of any other alternative spaces to frats that have that sort of ambiance, where you can go and drink something that’s not utter garbage, and be in a non-fratty environment if you want that sort of thing,” Martin said. “You’re never in BarHop with the sole intention to get smashed. There’s always other things to do as well.”
Whicker also emphasized BarHop’s originality.
“It’s something different,” Whicker said. “It’s something that you don’t get anywhere else. You might discover something new that you didn’t know you liked before. That’s super valuable, and super cool.”