School and the barstools repopulate

Allison Mueller

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Gabby’s Bar located downtown Winona is a popular scene for college students. JESUS CAZARES

Samantha Beck/ Winonan

With the sudden departure of summer and the school year return, college campuses are not the only locations noticing a change in popularity.

The Winona bar scene has been gearing up in recent weeks to accommodate for the large groups of students ready to head out for a night on the town. Used to the relaxed atmosphere from the summer months, bartenders and bar owners must get back into the swing of things for the change which comes with the start of school.

The summer bar scene has fewer students, whereas during the fall, the bars push their maximum occupancy.

Sophia Rena, a bartender at Gabby’s, is known for her lime green Scooby Snack shot. For her, she cannot wait for the school year to begin at the bars.

During the summer, “there are less people, and more time.  It is casual, easier and less rowdy.  It’s a great time to train as a bartender,” Rena said.

Some nights, there will be customers waiting to tell Rena their life story over a drink, and other nights all they want are shots.  The townies come regularly and Rena can name them off one by one.

“You make more friends in the summer too, since all the students that go out in the summer are the only ones in Winona. It’s a tight knit crowd,” Rena said.

As a student at Winona State, Rena gets to see her friends again, and this makes the bar scene exciting.  The atmosphere is crowded but also fun and social since more students are in town. The bar scene during the school year is loud and fast paced, especially crazy on Thursday nights for the dollar rails at Gabby’s.

“The deals stay the same throughout the year, just more people during the school year,” Rena said. “There will be occasional fights that will pop up because of more drunk people.”

Either way, Rena is excited for the bar scene this year.

Similar to Rena’s analysis of the different seasons in the bars, part owner of the Legendary Tavern, located on 3rd Street, Dan Corrigan inserts his practical opinion about the differences between the summer and school bar scenes.

“Basically, it is a give and take,” he said, sitting down at the gleaming chestnut bar. “Since the students are gone, the townies come to the bars, and it’s very relaxed. But when the students come back, the regulars are gone and there is a lot more work.”

“There are more cover bands to draw the older crowd in but during the school year, the Tavern tries to host several DJs just for the kids,” Corrigan said, regarding summer events at the bar. The events stay the same throughout the year, but by far the most popular event is Tuesday Wristband nights where it is all you can drink for $7.  The bar is packed “wall to wall” he describes with a smile.

He agrees during the summer it is less stressful and laidback. “The summer is when you can take time off, but during the school year you work overtime, but you get paid more, obviously,” Corrigan said.