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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2023

Student-run bar on campus offers alternative social scene, encourages responsible drinking

Seniors (left to right) Cody Mattice, William Fenimore and Ethan DeMaio practiced their bartending as student workers at Catamount.
Seniors (left to right) Cody Mattice, William Fenimore and Ethan DeMaio practiced their bartending as student workers at Catamount.

The Catamount, a student-run bar which aims to provide a social environment different from the traditional party scene at Middlebury, hosted its first event of the fall semester last week. Approximately 150 juniors and seniors attended the event held in Atwater Dining Hall on Thursday, Nov. 2.

The bar featured drinks available for purchase, including beer, wine and seltzers, as well as free non-alcoholic beer from Athletic Brewing Co., in addition to goldfish, nuts and berries. Two student bands, Middlebury Jazz Messengers and Brühm, played live music as students gathered and enjoyed each other’s company.

Shane Silverman ’24.5 and Marc Chu ’24 co-founded the bar, which hosted two events last spring. Silverman and Jaden Roderique ’24 co-organized the event last week.

Silverman shared the aspects of the nightlife at Middlebury with which he is dissatisfied that ultimately led him to want to create this alternative, noting the potential for negative experiences when heavy drinking is the norm. 

“You can’t talk to anybody, or like connect with your peers and build relationships when you’re too drunk — it leads to bad decisions and bad nights, and in response to that we wanted to create an environment where that doesn’t have to be the case, so responsible drinking is a huge part of it,” Silverman said.

The Catamount aims to create a space in which students could drink a little or not at all while still connecting with one another in a casual setting.

Aine Powers ’24, who was in attendance on Thursday night, agreed with Silverman’s desire for a space in which slower-paced drinking was the norm.

“​​I appreciated having a more laid back drinking/socializing opportunity,” Powers wrote in a message to The Campus. “I also thought it was cool to see students take initiative to come up with more nightlife on campus, since I think that's something people have always felt could be improved!”

Silverman was pleasantly surprised by the turnout at the event. He expected students to stop by briefly but was glad when many stayed.

 “I think the idea was that they would just stop by and see what it was like, and then go to bar night [at Two Brothers Tavern],” he said. “But everybody seemed to like the music and the vibe enough that they never left, so I think that was pretty cool that it went from just somewhere to stop by to somewhere to spend the whole night.”

To spread the word about the student-run bar, Roderique emailed around 700 members of the senior Feb, senior and Super Senior Feb class years. They were told that IDs would be checked at the door to ensure that only students of legal drinking age attended the event.

The downstairs of Two Brothers Tavern, where of age students often go on Thursday nights, was closed that night. 

Charlotte Shapiro ’24 attended the event and said that while she enjoys Middlebury’s typical nightlife scene, she liked the change of pace that the Catamount provided. 

“It was a great experience, I really enjoyed the bands that they had, and I also liked the variety of drinks that they were serving, especially the Vermont local ones like Fiddlehead,” Shapiro said.

Indie pop-rock band Brühm was second in the lineup of student bands to play at the Catamount on Thursday night. Lead singer Jacob Bradley ’24 was excited to play in front of other students again after what he described as a quieter-than-usual fall semester in the on-campus music scene.

“Playing at the Catamount was a huge joy because with the tragic loss of the Mill basement the music scene on campus has taken a big hit this fall, and it’s been much harder to find good venues to play. People seemed very excited to hear live music and we had a lot of people out on the dance floor,” Bradley said. “We all had a great time.”

The two events Catamount held last spring took place in the Mahaney Arts Center. While those events went well, Silverman said he prefers the Atwater location. Holding the event in the dining hall meant that Silverman and Roderique were able to work directly with Dining Services to plan the night instead of coordinating with Events Management, like they did last semester. 

Dan Detora, executive director of food service operations, told The Campus that he thinks the student-run bar is a valuable event for students. 

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“It keeps students on-campus and not drinking and driving, it teaches responsible drinking and for the student workers it shows what it takes to run an operation,” Detora wrote.

The location change streamlined the planning process, according to Silverman. For example, the alcohol served at the Catamount was stored in the basement cooler in Atwater, simplifying setup to bringing it upstairs rather than transporting it across campus to the Mahaney Arts Center. The drinks came from Dining Services’ supply that is typically used for college events, and the money made from drink sales at the Catamount will go back to Dining Services. The student bartenders were hired as catering employees and were paid an hourly wage.

Shapiro found the $7 she paid for her drink at the bar to be reasonable. “It’s obviously a little bit more expensive than if you’re buying a pack for yourself at one of the stores in town,” she said. “But I think for the experience of getting to go with friends and having drinks served for you, I thought it was pretty reasonable pricing.”

Detora and Silverman agreed that the event went well overall. Silverman hopes to continue improving their implementation of policies around serving alcohol at a college event. 

“This was our third time doing it and this was the first time I felt like we really met our goal of creating an inclusive environment for people to socialize,” Silverman said. “Moving forward, I definitely want to build upon that.”

Catamount band (jpeg).jpg

Brühm, a student indie pop rock band, played during the second half of the event, drawing a crowd of students to

dance in the center of Atwater Dining Hall.

Susanna Schatz

Susanna Schatz ‘24 (she/her) is the Senior News Editor. 

She previously served as Local Editor, Staff Writer, and Visuals Artist for The Campus. She is an English major and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies minor.   

Susanna is the social media and marketing intern for a small business started by Midd Alums, Treeline Terrains. In her free time you’ll find her taking in the Vermont outdoors hiking, swimming, skiing, reading in an Adirondack chair, or painting the scenery.