For ten months during 2012 (excluding summer), La’au’s—the beloved taco shop across from Armstrong—turned into a student bar at nights called The Ninth Block. Opened by a group of four CC students in January of 2012, the bar closed in October.
Bryce Daniels `13, Luke Urban `12, Ryan Patterson `12, and Lee Carter `12 came up with the idea during the fall of 2011, the senior year of Urban, Patterson and Carter and the junior year of Daniels.
They wanted to create a bar close to campus exclusively for CC students. “Schools need a place where kids can go out and drink safely,” said Daniels, who now works at a consulting firm in Houston.
After conceiving the idea, the four went to La’au’s owner, Joseph Coleman, who supported them. “He was like, ‘yeah we can definitely make this happen,’” said Daniels.
They carded gold cards at the door—you had to be twenty-one and you had to be a CC student. “We didn’t do shots—mixed drinks, beer, and wine only,” said Daniels. It was, Daniels said, a “controlled alternative to going out.”
“It was a place where the school had some control and we thought that that would be something the school would be willing to pay for,” said Daniels.
Daniels, Urban, Paterson, and Carter hoped to eventually sign a contract with CC where they would be paid a flat fee as a food-service provider and would also charge students. The four decided to spend second semester of the 2011-2012 academic year “proving to the school” that it was something that would work, Daniels said.
“We met with Jill a bunch,” said Daniels, who knew The Ninth Block would need to demonstrate its worth before gaining sponsorship from the administration.
The bar was open three nights a week that semester. “We were doing pretty well,” said Daniels who only remembers only one bad incident—when a pedestrian walking by was injured. “The school never found out about that,” said Daniels.
“We had TVs with ski movies,” said Daniels. The Ninth Block was a popular venue for student bands. Daniels remembers The Log Jammers and The Drunk Molly Experience playing at the bar. “Our biggest night ever, we had an alumni band come back and play; the whole parking lot was packed,” said Daniels.
The four owners weren’t getting rich, but they were making students happy, something Daniels assumed would convince the school to endorse the bar. However three blocks into the 2012-2013 academic year, The Ninth Block closed.
“The school went behind our back,” said Daniels who cites complaints from the administration as a key element in the bar’s closing.
“There were three or four stories in the alumni magazine about us—they were outwardly proud but internally they didn’t like it,” said Daniels, who defined “they” as Dean Edmonds and President Tiefenthaler.
“The administration was telling people we don’t want this, we don’t want that,” said Daniels. “They were talking to a lot of people about it. They had meetings with Joseph Coleman,” said Daniels who said the meetings were not “overly positive.”
Daniels also talked to faculty: “A couple professors told me that the administration was not sending good vibes.” Regarding their alleged disapproval, Daniels said, “The administration never told that to my face.”
Daniels continued running the bar without the expected endorsement from the school. But “it didn’t really work,” said Daniels, who was working from noon to 3 a.m. making forty dollars a day. The decision to close The Ninth Block was based on a mixture of the administration’s supposed disapproval and the toils of bar ownership.
Daniels decided that “it wasn’t really worth it” to continue running the bar, and the experiment ended, albeit sourly.
Edmonds remembers it differently.
“I don’t think that’s true at all,” said Edmonds regarding Daniels’ version of the Ninth Block’s closing. “The decision was made by Bryce,” said Edmonds. “The college didn’t close it,” said Edmonds, citing the relationship between Coleman and Daniels: “I would suggest you talk with Joseph [Coleman].”
“Maybe there’s a little truth on both sides, but neither is 100 percent accurate,” said Coleman, adding, “I loved talking with and hanging out with those boys in The Ninth Block—it was great.”
According to Coleman, Bryce, as his fellow co-founders graduated, found it difficult to run the bar alone. “After four weekends my remembrance is that he was going out of town and didn’t want to work—which is understandable” and there was no one to run the bar.
“I think Bryce believes the college was against it,” said Coleman.
According to Coleman, it was difficult for the college to meet Bryce’s wishes—free space and $5,000. “I think it’s tough for the college,” said Coleman of the administration’s position in the situation. He said the administration was supportive.
“I don’t think Tiefenthaler and Edmonds were negative; they recognized that the nature of college kids is that they leave,” said Coleman, regarding the administration’s decision to not sponsor the Ninth Block after the bar had three of four founders leave after four months.
Coleman suggested that the administration supported the bar, but not as much as Daniels would have liked. Consequently, Daniels was doing more than his share of work, and getting little back.
“It lost energy; it lost enthusiasm,” said Coleman.
Coleman concluded saying that if another group of students wanted to do it again, he would “certainly entertain them.”
At the end of November, La’au’s will close for renovations until the spring.
Brian LeMeur, Staff Writer