The changing landscape of Marshall Street

Now that Hungry Chuck's closed and Orange Crate Brewing Co. is moving, students and the greater community are feeling the effects of the Marshall Street area's changing nightlife scene.

Three male students strolled slowly down the Syracuse University promenade, backpacks on as they headed home from campus after a long Tuesday of classes. An orange April sunset cast a long shadow ahead of them as they talked, laughed and discussed their plans for the evening.

Photo: Liam Sullivan
Hungry Chuck's closed down and awaiting demolition with doors boarded up, fenced off and the iconic sign missing.

“You going out tonight, bro?” one student asked another.

“I definitely want to. I mean, how many nights do we have left?” the second responded.

“I mean, but where are we going to go?”

Ranked as the “No. 1 Party School” by The Princeton Review in August 2014, Syracuse University has a drinking culture that runs deep. Two years later, SU has fallen to No. 8 on the list after being ranked No. 5 in 2015. With student nightlife as prominent as it is, major changes have reverberated throughout the campus and alumni communities.

With the closing of student favorite campus bar Hungry Chuck’s two weeks ago and the impending closing of the Orange Crate Brewing Co. coming soon, many other students and the greater Syracuse community as a whole are curious to see how the changing landscape of the greater Marshall Street bar scene pans out.

Real estate development firm BLVD Equities plans to demolish the bars and several other businesses along South Crouse Avenue to construct a “mixed-use” building that will include luxury student apartments. With the demolition and construction following soon after, the future of student nightlife is changing rapidly.

The Future of Marshall Street

The largest of the student bars, Hungry Chuck’s closed on April 18, 2017 to make way for the construction project. Steve Theobald, the owner of Hungry Chuck’s, told Spectrum News of Central New York that Chuck’s was “absolutely coming back. (Chuck’s) isn’t going anywhere.”

But Theobald has yet to announce where the new location will be.

“Realistically, I don’t know if (Hungry Chuck’s) will be open again at all,” said broadcast and digital journalism junior Sawyer Kamman. “I know a lot of people who feel the same way.”

Orange Crate Brewing Co. — also known by students and alumni as Lucy’s Retired Surfer’s Bar — will be re-opening next year just a few doors down from its current location, said Orange Crate bar-back and spokesperson Mike Rempter. Rempter, also an SU senior studying public relations, accounting and finance said the new location will be 731 South Crouse Ave., where Bruegger’s Bagels resided until September 2016.

Rempter said that the new space is the same square footage as the Orange Crate’s new location and with the new kitchen, owner R.C. Faigle hopes to be open during the day serving food for lunch and during potential happy hours in the afternoon. With more open space and two doors instead of one, Rempter expects capacity to be slightly increased and for things to be less cluttered than they can be at the current location.

“I don’t think things are going to change much for us,” Rempter said. “If anything, we’re maintaining the same demographic and only going to have more opportunities.”

Not all bars in the Marshall Street area will be changing location in the coming weeks. Harry’s Bar, Faegan’s Pub and DJ’s On the Hill all will be open in their current locations when the 2017-2018 school year begins.

DJ’s On the Hill manager Mike Cauchon said the closing of other establishments opens a lot of opportunities for new and increased business. DJ’s is staffed for a maximum capacity crowd every night it’s open, but expects to see an increased crowd as 2017 graduation approaches and seniors look to celebrate their last nights on the Hill.

For next year, Cauchon says there is talk of being open an additional day and maybe different events, such as a karaoke night, as DJ’s looks to attract the displaced bar crowd. He also expects happy hours to “really take off.”

“Things change all the time, with Greek life, house parties, weather, exams — whatever,” Cauchon said. “We expect things to skyrocket for us for the rest of this year, but we’re opening our doors with open arms.”

What's Next for Students: Staying Safe Off-Campus and Downtown

Though Chuck’s says it will re-open, without an announced location for the upcoming school year, a large portion of the student drinking population will be displaced and looking for new places to go.

“The culture isn’t going to change,” said former Student Association Vice-President Joyce LaLonde. “The only change will be where things happen.”

Other than frequenting other campus bars, the student population will likely frequent bars downtown in the Armory Square area or head into the Euclid Avenue neighborhood to attend house parties.

Neither Rempter and Cauchon are worried about competition from the downtown bars and expect the majority of students to remain on campus and Marshall Street.

“Downtown is its own monster,” Cauchon said. “I know some kids go downtown sometimes but that’s not DJ’s competition and I’m not concerned.”

SU Public Safety Associate Chief John Sardino said that if lots more students head downtown, the Nancy Cantor Warehouse near Armory Square would become a hub for students because they can take the Connective Corridor bus between the Warehouse and campus.

“I would hope that students would take that Connective Corridor bus instead of driving,” Sardino said. “… But we’re not really into the business of promoting, ‘hey, go downtown’ when I would prefer to have students as close to campus as possible, whether that’s on the weekend or other times.”

By the time students are back on campus in August for the fall semester, hitching a ride downtown will become infinitely easier with the arrival of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft to upstate New York. The state Senate, New York state Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an agreement earlier this April on the 2018 fiscal year budget that includes a measure to authorize these apps to operate in the state.

“Things are going to get easier and safer,” LaLonde said. “Students are excited about it and with drunk driving, this is an opportunity for students to simply use an app on their phone and not get behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking.”

But students can congregate with each other to party without heading downtown or frequenting a Marshall Street bar. After fulfilling the two-year on-campus housing requirement, students typically move off-campus and can commonly be found renting apartments and housing from landlords on Euclid Avenue and the surrounding streets, including Comstock Place, Ostrom Avenue and Livingston Avenue.

Students here commonly host parties — events that aren’t regulated or supervised the same way bouncers and bartenders do at establishments with liquor licenses. Sardino says there will be an adjustment made over the summer to better staff DPS officers areas with more student foot traffic, such as the Euclid neighborhood.

While DPS’ authority as campus peace officers ends at the border of campus, Sardino said that DPS and the Syracuse Police Department work together to monitor parties in the surrounding neighborhood. The Associate Chief believes that as far as partnership with local law enforcement go, DPS and the SPD have one of the best in the nation and Sardino has even presented about how to build such a relationship at national campus police conferences.

Even with less supervision from DPS on campus and in the Marshall Street area, Sardino doesn’t expect incidents to go up next year.

“I don’t see anything rising,” said Sardino. “I just see a shift in where it’s taking place.”

Despite confidence in his department’s ability to do its job, Sardino acknowledged that a lot is up in the air and said his department will plan for subsequent changes and do everything in its power to keep students safe.

The changes are accompanied by uncertainty. But while it is clear that students will be moving to new places, the Syracuse party school culture will remain.

“Lots of this year has been resisting change and being sad about the status quo going away,” Rempter said. “But change isn’t always bad.Bars can come and go, but the fun and memories won’t.”

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.