by Savannah Dingman
photography by Maydeen Merino, Remy Hogan & Shane Rodrigues
For most college football quarterbacks, finding plans on a Saturday is a no-brainer. For them, their biggest obstacle is the defensive line. Off the field, their difficulty lies in trying to squeeze every entertainment plan into one night. But for Matt Albright, University of La Verne quarterback, he regularly finds himself with few options when he wants to have a fun night with friends. And by few, that means none. “There isn’t anything to do past 9 p.m. near La Verne. It’s not that people aren’t looking for activities; it just isn’t there,” Albright says. “My teammates and I end up traveling really far just to have some fun after a game or a long day of class, meetings and practice.”
Throughout Albright’s senior football season, he and his friends regularly took Ubers as far as Hollywood for some late-night entertainment. Not only was this hurting their college-student wallets, the inconvenience of it all made the long night even longer.
This is not just an Albright problem, as many students at the University struggle to find any form of life after the city of La Verne rolls up its sidewalks. But what if there were, and the word just has not quite gotten around? Having some late-night spots for students creates a brand new atmosphere on campus. It allows them to get to know students holding different majors and interests, and helps bring together the three-fourths of the student-body who commute to and from campus.
The first nightlife experience to check out is just 10 minutes from the University: the dueling piano bar. PianoPiano is on Foothill Boulevard, facing the DoubleTree Hotel. Upon arrival, lots of singing and laughter bounces through the venue and spills into the parking lot. Familiar songs crescendo in and out, as security guards hover around the entry way door. After ensuring that guests are drinking age and collecting the $5 cover charge, it is time to head inside.
Two pianos on stage are positioned toward each other, with one pianist at each bench. Between them is a drum set. Both pianos are equipped with a big red button on top. To play a song, guests fill out a song request slip. Requests to the pianist are paired with a tip. The higher the tip, the better the chances of your song getting played. But, if a guest really wants to change a song, she will have to out-tip the current song. This earns the guest a chance to smash the big red button. Strobe lights flash, and sirens frantically ring while the screen above flickers with the message: STOP THAT SONG. Most tips range from $20 to $40 but some get as high as $80. Depending on the night, you can find yourself with only standing room, so be sure to call and grab a table reservation especially if you are planning on going on a Friday or Saturday night. Fortunately, the standing room is positioned closest to the bar, directly in front of the stage, which arguably gives you the best “seats” in the house. Ultimately, PianoPiano delivers prime entertainment for the cover charge. Everyone’s eyes are fixed on the stage, smiles go ear-to-ear, and anticipation is high on what will come next. Guests are encouraged to be wild and let loose, whether that be singing along, dancing, or doing a silly act on stage.
The Paradox Arcade and Bar
Despite the huge entertainment value at PianoPiano, such a high-energy experience might not be what a worn-out college student wants after a long week. Ten minutes south down Garey Avenue, you will come upon a hidden gem in Pomona, The Paradox Arcade and Bar. Free of a cover charge, the Paradox invites people to revisit the nostalgia of their childhood through classic quarter and nickel arcade games. Inside the locally owned bar, you will feel like you have traveled back in time to the ‘80s or ‘90s. Behind the flashing machines dinging and humming familiar tunes, colorful hand-painted murals smother every wall inch. The game-themed murals with neon shapes and familiar characters are the perfect backdrop for the screen projecting movies from the era. Some of the movies shown include “Cone Heads,” the Star Wars saga, “Star Trek” and cyber-inspired cinema.
Have a roll of quarters ready, because The Paradox delivers an array of arcade games. Guests can hop from Jurassic Park and Simpsons-themed pinball to a classic game of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, the iconic Space Invaders or Galaga. If they really want a throwback experience, there is even an Atari, centipede and a Sega Genesis Console. The music ranges from Michael Jackson to Rage Against the Machine, but if you would rather game to your own tunes, you can punch in a song on their iPad version of a juke box for 50 cents.
One Pomona-native couple describes themselves as proud regulars at The Paradox. They kept a close eye on the arcade and bar’s Instagram page, anticipating its grand opening in 2018. “There’s a sense of nostalgia inside The Paradox. It just gives you a vintage feeling from the era we grew up in. It’s cool to feel like a child again but this time, with drinks,” says Rianffrey Hoyos, a Cal Poly Pomona graduate.
The arcade theme continues throughout the bar, as the beer on tap is dispensed through a Super Mario-themed green warp pipe. The drinks also mirror the theme, with names like “Marge-Rita,” an ode to the Simpson’s, and “The Dark Side.” If you have had enough screen-time, there are some old-school board games on the bar tables. Guests can play Jenga, Mr. Operation, Connect 4, Lite-Brite and more. “We live right up the street, so we come about once or twice a week. We really like playing video games together, whether it’s my favorite, the pinball machines, or the consoles or board games. It’s so much fun,” Liz Hoyos says.
That ’80s Bar
If gaming isn’t really your thing, but you are still feeling reminiscent, just down the street from The Paradox is That 80s Bar. Big hair and leg warmers are welcome at this fun, energetic spot. People are mostly found in the center of the room, singing along and dancing to their favorite tunes on the big checkerboard dance floor. Above the crowd, a large disco ball rotates, sending beams of light around the room. Be sure to get here early, as the tables and dance floor fill up quickly. Entertainment in That 80’s Bar ranges from era-themed cover bands to karaoke Wednesdays. Tribute bands cover music from artists like No Doubt, Van Halen, the Go Gos, Cheez Whiz and Madonna. But do not worry, Latin music lovers. That 80’s Bar did not forget about you. Some nights are even dedicated to Spanish rock, pop and Cumbia, and locals will pile in the bar to hear bands playing songs from Maná, Selena, Depeche Mode and more. Although the crowd is not your typical college-aged students, anyone who admires the era is sure to enjoy the retro ambiance.
However, if you are craving a college-student atmosphere, The Press in the Claremont Village might be your new go-to hangout. While The Press does not offer much of a specific theme like the others, you will enjoy live music from locals five nights a week. Music buffs will love a Press visit, as featured artist provide quite the variation of genres. Depending on the night, you might hear a set from a house DJ, hip hop, rock and roll, folk music, or even video game music. However, if music is a bit too tough for you and your friends to agree on, maybe the movie, game or trivia night will be right. Take a look at the website calendar that lists the event and artist line-ups. The Press also offers seasonal cocktails and even some photogenic, Instagram-worthy drinks, if that is your thing.
Fortunately, thanks to a new La Verne addition, a college atmosphere can be found just be a few steps from campus. On Third Street, the tapas bar Taberna features an indoor/outdoor floor plan, accompanied by a few modern fire pits, twinkling string lights and a giant Jenga game.
Taberna co-owner Mike Chiovare says he wanted the restaurant to have a laid back, backyard atmosphere. The restaurant also thoughtfully considers a college student budget with its food and drink menu. The tapas bar incorporates two cocktail hours, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and again from 10 a.m. to midnight. Taberna also offers $5 mini martinis, for those with commitment issues.
Any night that does not call for studying is reason enough to celebrate. First check out ULV’s entertainment offerings. But if you do not find something to your liking, skip the commute back home and enjoy local nightlife an Uber ride $10 and under has to offer.