Back in the late 1990’s when I had my youth and a Joey Tribbiani haircut, my friends and I would head out to the bars and clubs around Pittsburgh. I’m a South Side guy born and raised, so going down to my old stomping grounds to drink was familiar territory. Even in 2016, all of the college students from around town flock to the South Side to unwind at any time during the week. If you do make it down to this neighborhood to catch a few drinks, know that any person over the age of 35 is prone to disappear at the stroke of 9 p.m. (Old person Cinderella time).
Before 1999, I was still living with my parents so I had a lot of money to burn at the bars before many life responsibilities started to kick in. My one friend Dave and I would always go out on weeknights, shooting pool and taking advantage of mid-week drink specials. Dave was in the same situation as me regarding living quarters, so we got into quite a routine when it came time to meeting up. We developed a solid tolerance for beer and I developed a rather good record at playing bar pool on the small tables.
We would usually get together at 8 p.m. on weeknights since most of the drink specials ran between 7 and 10. At our first stop each night–no matter where we started, we were always one of few groups whose average age was under 24. Most patrons were well over the age of 40, some as old as 70. Dave and I would always talk with the “senior members” we got to know, and the pool tables were always empty, which we loved to take advantage of. When I would head up to the bar around 8:45 for another round, it was like each bar had a rancher and a Border Collie that would corral all the old people out the front door. This happened every time we went out. And sure enough when 9 p.m. hit, the crowd became significantly younger anywhere we went.
This happened on the weekends too when we had more people head out with us. It was as if the older crowd were controlled by the government or aliens with an ON/OFF toggle switch. When it got close to 9 p.m., crowded or quiet, cheap or expensive, country or hip-hop, the old people wanted out. I guess I never understood why because of my youth, but now that I am 40, I think I understand why the elders plotted their exit.
REASON #1: At college bars or dance clubs, nobody wants to talk to old people. Every time I overheard some college-age girl talking about an older guy talking to them, it was never in a good light. She could have been polite to the older man when interacting with him face-to-face, but the minute she “escaped” his conversation, she would utter to her friends, “Out of ALL THE GUYS in this place, I get hit on by the OLD ONE. That’s just great.” I know us guys reacted the same way when it used to happen to one of our own with an older woman, so I guess from trial and error (And in some cases trial by fire) older patrons figured out it’s time to seek out another venue.
REASON #2: Young drunks are usually more violent, so leave before the police arrive. No matter where I drank, I would estimate that 90% of bar/club violence occurred after midnight. In addition, more street robberies and drug transactions happened later in the night. Before 9 p.m. back in the 1990’s, we rarely saw police presence on the South Side because it wasn’t needed. If a fight broke out before midnight, it was usually between a girl and a guy with plenty of shouting but no punches thrown. Though the experiences of their time being in their 20’s, the “senior members” knew when the crowd was going to start getting out of control.
REASON #3: Old people have more to lose. I don’t care to go out anymore because I have a young son. I would rather hang out with him every day of the year than subject myself to the stupid shit I did twenty years ago. I am sure this mentality is shared with many parents my age today and this thinking wasn’t new in 1997. The “senior members” Dave and I spoke with all those times had good jobs, kids of their own (Most of their kids were older than 18) and wives who knew where they were, some right next to them at the bar. I never got arrested, but if I did, I didn’t have a career job and I still lived with my parents. I didn’t have bills to pay or people to care about like the old guys did.
REASON #4: They knew of local “Old Person Bars”. When I got to be around age 24 and started to get sick of the same old scene, my friends and I would venture to other parts of Pittsburgh to see if we could discover new places that were fun. We soon learned of a few dozen places where we were by far the youngest group in the establishment, and we didn’t care. The beer and liquor were cheap. We could play darts and pool with plenty of room to move. You could actually talk to each other without screaming over loud music and THE SAME “SENIOR MEMBERS” from the South Side who drank with us in our first hour down there were drinking well past midnight a few miles away in bars that voluntarily kept the obnoxious youngsters away. Bartenders at these places used to fear we would bring in a younger crowd when we arrived! It was like we were on “The List” at a dozen exclusive clubs in the Pittsburgh area. We vowed to only bring in people that could hold their alcohol to show our appreciation of allowing us to “chill out” in their alcoves of retreat among the halls of drunken madness.
Just like all the seniors I drank with some twenty years ago, I know my place in the pecking order when it comes to nightlife in 2016. I now go to restaurants, not bars or clubs. I go to the movies, not the strip club. And if for whatever reason I am in the South Side of Pittsburgh these days, get me the hell out of there before 9 p.m.