Alternative venues leapfrog Toad’s

Many intoxicated young people ride Quinnipiac University's shuttle so they can party at Toad's Place.
Many intoxicated young people ride Quinnipiac University's shuttle so they can party at Toad's Place. Photo by Vivienne Jiao Zhang.

For Elis looking to have fun on weekends, the Yale aphorism “all roads lead to Toad’s” is increasinglyup for debate.

For the past 37 years, Toad’s Place on York Street has been a staple for Yalies looking for somewhere to let loose after a long week of classes, but recently a growing number of students are finding reasons to seek other venues when Saturday night rolls around. Students interviewed said that changing crowd demographics and a growing number of alternatives are eroding the decades-long dominance Toad’s has held over Yale nightlife.

“I definitely feel that people don’t go to Toads as much on Saturday — many of my friends don’t go at all anymore,” Henry Toole ’14 said. “The fact that the [non-Yale] crowds are so much larger and there are more options is definitely having an effect on people.”

CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS

10 students interviewed from all graduating class years said a perceived increase in out-of-town college students and New Haven locals attending the Toad’s “Saturday Night Dance Parties” is deterring Yalies from the York Street nightclub. Three students said they recognize fewer attendees in the Toad’s crowds on Saturday nights than they did in years past, and that having a sense of familiarity with other attendees is a “big factor” when they decide where to go.

Other students interviewed attributed the changing attitudes toward Toad’s to mutual hostility between Yalies and the new Toad’s crowd. Many of the Toad’s patrons who come from outside New Haven are students at Quinnipiac University, and Yalies said the new flood of these attendees may be pushing Elis to seek alternative venues.

“I think that a lot of students from other schools like Q-Pac can have a negative impact on people’s impression of Toad’s,” Kevin Daly ’14 said. “I feel like for a lot of people, Toad’s has become an option of last resort.”

Four students interviewed also voiced concern that the new Toad’s crowd may not always be entirely receptive of Yale students. They added that the line outside of Toad’s on Saturday nights consists of large numbers of non-Yale students, many of whom are intoxicated, and Yalies’ interactions with them can be confrontational.

But Quinnipiac students said they do not have any grievances against Yalies. Ben Cloutier, president of Quinnipiac’s student government association (SGA), said that Quinnipiac students generally do not have any stereotypes or preconcieved notions of Yale students and that “there isn’t much talk” about Yale at Toad’s.

Lauren Yaconis, a sophomore representative for the Quinipiac SGA, said many Yalies stereotype Quinnipiac students “in a negative way.”

“They’ve called us ‘slob-cats’ or ‘sloppy,’ and while some students do party a lot, they don’t represent the majority of Quinnipiac,” she said. “It’s a minority that ruins the image for the rest of Quinnipiac.”

Toad’s manager Brian Phelps acknowledged that there can be tension between Yalies and out-of-town college students and locals, but insisted that this has not decreased Yale attendance. He said that the total number of Yale students visiting the club is “about the same as last year.”

“Yes, the extremely large numbers of Quinnipiac students do irritate some Yale students,” Phelps said. “We had a stronger Yale turnout about four years ago, but when you are talking about almost 40 years of history, there are always going to be ups and downs.”

EXPANDED ALTERNATIVES

While Toad’s offers late-night dancing and a popular house music, Yale students interviewed said alternative social outlets — such as Box 63 American Bar and Grill on Elm St., which opened in June — are drawing many students away from Toad’s with a very different entertainment experience.

“I’d say Box has has taken over Toad’s Place — people definitely prefer going there now,” said Mackenzie Ann Merkel ’14. “They don’t just have loud music, but there’s oldies and karaoke which draws people.”

Carl Carbone, a managing partner at Box 63, said the venue was designed with this differentiation in mind. He added that the environment is one of “comfort and relaxation” where customers can order “mom and pop” food or buy drinks in a “casual atmosphere.”

Carbone said 30 to 35 percent of traffic at Box 63 comes from the bar, and he does not consider his restaurant to be competing with Toad’s because “the two fundamentally are not on the same level.” For dub step, hip-hop or euro-beat dance parties, Carbone said, Toad’s Place or Alchemy Nightclub on Crown St. are still students’ venue of choice.

But Box 63’s alternative vibe has drawn at least some students away from Toad’s, particularly juniors and seniors. Sinead O’Brien ’13 said while she enjoys the dancing environment Toad’s offers, Box 63 has become “more vibrant” and is drawing increasing numbers of upperclassmen on weekends.

It remains to be seen how Box 63’s presence will affect Yale attendance at Toad’s in the long run. New Haven police raided Box 63 on Oct. 14 and handed out infractions to five bar patrons for underage drinking. Carbone said this move by law enforcement has helped mitigate what was previously a “frenzy” of underage students trying to enter the Box 63 bar, possibly sending some nightlife-seekers back to Toad’s.

Toad’s was founded in 1975.

Comments