Campus bars remain popular over span of half-century

Last month, The Wagon Wheel was named one of the "Top 33 Best College Bars in America" by the lifestyle magazine Thrillist. The Wheel is only one of the three bars that make up the "Bar-muda" triangle around the intersection of 14th and Ohio Streets. JAMES HOYT/KANSAN

On a map, the locations of three popular bars form a triangle. The Wagon Wheel, Bullwinkles and The Jayhawk Cafe? are located within two blocks of each other. On weekend evenings, the area buzzes with students.

Just last month, The Wheel was named one of “The 33 Best College Bars in America” by the lifestyle website-Thrillist-for its rich history, party potential, and cheap food and drinks.

For more than five decades, all three bars have remained popular establishments and each offers its own experience with location in common.

They are nestled among an entirely residential area, between 13th and 14th Streets down the hill from The Oread Hotel, which makes for loud nights for residents.

Rob Farha, owner of The Wagon Wheel, said unlike the bars on Mass Street, many students are within walking distance from their homes. He said the location outweighs the noise complaints because it tends to prevent students from driving after drinking.

“When you have such a strong Mass Street, you need multiple places to pull together to bring people to the neighborhood,” Farha said.

He said he has architectural diagrams that indicate 14th Street was originally commercial buildings including a seamstress and tobacco shop before it became mostly apartments.

The Wheel, The Hawk and The Bull are open for the summer with adjusted hours.

Wheel recognized among top college bars in America:

The crimson, blue and cobblestone facade of The Wagon Wheel at 507 W. 14th St. is recognizable to current students, alumni and now the nation.

It's listed as one of “The 33 Best College Bars in America” on the lifestyle website Thrillist.-Farha attributes the title to the bar's long existence and minimal changes since 1955.

He is the third and current owner-and a 1988 graduate. He said he likes that it's considered the quintessential alumni and upperclassmen bar.

“I just love it here because everyone seems to know everyone when they come in,” Farha said.

He said diners are guaranteed to recognize someone, whether it be a friend or a basketball legend, like 1950s All-American Ron Loneski, who chowed down in a corner booth on a Tuesday in May before the grill closed for the summer.

Any hankering for the bacon-stuffed Wang burger or slice of pizza

will have to wait until the Wheel's kitchen reopens the third week of August. During the summer lull, bar hours are Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. which means the 16-ounce “Pounder” beer cans for $3 are still on the menu.

“That's where dreams were made while slugging beers, throwing darts and listening to the good old tunes on the jukebox,” said Sarah Gayed, a 2009 graduate.

Gayed said she remembers the old photos and writing on the walls fondly, and said the patio was a great place to be on game days.

Amanda Pittman, a senior from Archie, Mo., said The Wheel is a destination for her friends on week- ends even in the summer.

“It's the one bar that has so much tradition,” Pittman said.

Currently, the beer garden is simply a cement patio, but Farha said every year he dreams of building a deck complete with seating. So far, he hasn't made any major changes, and for the past 17 years he's owned the Wheel, it hasn't stopped people from filtering through the front door.

Bullwinkles trivia

Last year, Bullwinkles at 1344 Ten- nessee St. underwent an extensive renovation including a new concrete patio when Joe Sorrentino took the reigns as owner.

On game days, the patio fills with students clutching various beverages. Even though it's a popular hang- out, manager Shelda Jewell, a senior from Kansas City, Mo., provided details that most people don't know about the corner bar.

1. In 1979, the bar was known-as “Pour Richards” and owned by the Mall family. Other than that, the name “Bullwinkles” has stayed the same for nearly three decades through the last four owners.

2. The most recent noteworthy appearance was former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Trent Green earlier in May.

3. The ingredients for Moosebulls, a popular drink on the menu, are known only to the employees. The recipe was created in 2011 by former manager Johnny O'Donnell who-graduated in 2013.

4. This year, management discussed-buying umbrellas to shade the patio this summer, but they discovered a nearby tree offered enough shade that canvas covers aren't yet necessary.

5. The 20 or so employees get major bonuses in the form of holiday parties and trips to Kansas City Royals games in party buses. Jewell said Sorrentino spoils them.

6. Owner Sorrentino is a busy man with several other jobs and Jewell-said he isn't a big drinker. However, when he does drink something stronger than water, it's a tall vodka soda with a lemon wedge.

7. Employees outfit the giant moose head behind the bar with different hats depending on which big game is on.

8. Bullwinkles hardly ever has a cover, but when it does, the money is donated to local charities. The most recent collection of $1,000 went to Ballard Community Services in Lawrence.

Behind the bar at the Jayhawk Cafe

The volume inside the Hawk at 1340 Ohio St. increases as hip-hop music thumps and as the crowd of students grows. They make their way to the bar for both creative and clas- sic concoctions made possible by the bartenders.

Kendall Law, a senior from Lenexa, said he starts his bartending shifts after 8 p.m., and the fast-paced eve- ning lasts until about 3 a.m.

"When it's crowded and you try to squeeze through, people usually won't bother to move for you," Law-said. "But when they see that you're an employee trying to get through, the crowd will split."

As a bartender, he said he's gained a new level of respect. On his nights off, he said he's even allowed to cut in line-a benefit reserved for all Hawk employees.

In August, Law will have worked at the Hawk for a year. Since he began working at the Hawk, he said his social circle has expanded tremendously.

He said it makes for a good night of work when familiar faces visit, and his coworkers have become good-friends.

During his first shift, Law said he-was intimidated by the thick crowd and minimal training. He said his coworkers offered their help, which put him at ease.

"They told me I could go at any pace I wanted, and if a customer was being belligerent, I could let them know that, 'Hey, I'm the one making drinks,'" said Law.

Now a seasoned bartender, he said he has his favorite drinks to make. For shots, he goes with the Orange Gatorade made with UV Orange, Triple Sec, and sour, part of soda-gum. As for drinks, he keeps it simple with the classic whiskey and coke.

The owner declined to comment.