Friday nights at Grog are a staple for UF freshmen. It has been a place for endless Jolly Ranchers, incoherent texts to situationships and the drunken tumble down the stairs at the end of the night while “Mo Bamba” blares.
Traversing the Grog stairs has been a rite of passage for UF students since the establishment’s opening in 1996, but future freshmen won’t get to have the experience.
After 27 years in business, Grog House Bar and Grill announced March 21 it will close its doors May 6 — leaving behind a legacy of sticky floors, Pink Whitney hats and early 2000s music. One of the only 18-and-older bars in Gainesville, Grog featured All You Can Drink Ladies Nights every Wednesday, a favorite UF students will miss.
Nathan Sagnip, a 20-year-old UF sports management and marketing sophomore, described Grog as a “freshman sausage party.” Still, he said, the owners did a good job of creating a positive atmosphere to college students of all ages.
“All of us had memories — or a piece — of Grog in some form or fashion,” he said.
Sagnip is sad to see Grog go, he said. Despite a plethora of bars to choose from for 21-year-olds, he said, underage students have significantly fewer options.
Grog’s closure will eliminate one of the last 18+ bars in the Midtown strip, a loss for freshmen across campus.
People hated Grog for its stereotype as a freshman-only hangout, Sagnip said, however, attitudes toward the bar shifted after it announced the closure.
“It’s just funny how once it starts closing down everyone cares about it all of a sudden,” he said.
Grant Henderson, a 21-year-old UF marketing graduate and Grog’s barback, said he loved the camaraderie he created with his coworkers.
“It was always a great time going to work,” Henderson said. “It basically was like going in to hang with a bunch of your friends and then kind of partying on the side.”
While he’s sad about Grog’s impending closure, he said it didn’t come as a surprise.
“I think it's honestly just a sign of the times,” he said. “A lot of the older bars … close and they get relocated … a lot of the older classic places that many people know and love.”
Other members of Grog’s staff, like the 28-year-old general manager Tara Astoske, left a more personal mark on the UF community. A UF animal science graduate, Astoske was known by students as “Midtown Mom.”
Her coworkers at Grog were like family, she said.
“I'm definitely sad because it's been such an impact in my life,” Astoke said. “We've all just became so close.”
But despite its reputation, students of all ages found themselves on Grog’s dance floor.
Mickey Suarez, a 23-year-old UF alum, frequented Grog during his last two years of college. Although it can be unusual to be an upperclassman at Grog, Suarez said, he taught the freshmen how to be a Florida Gator.
“Grog was for the common man,” he said. “Whether you partied too much as a sports management major or didn’t party enough as a construction management major, Grog was home.”
Unlike many, Suarez wasn’t a victim of the Grog stairs. The steps — beautifully imperfect — add to the memory and legacy that is Grog, he said.
“I've seen people sliding down past me as I'm leaving Grog,” he said. “That just adds to the magic of the establishment.”
Suarez is saddened by the Grog closure, he said, but he values his years there.
“To the owners of Grog House,” Suarez said, “Thank you for your service. We salute you, and we hope that you open another bar in the future.”
Peyton Harris is a first-year English major and the News Assistant for The Alligator. She is also a member of Zeta Tau Alpha and spends her free time re-listening to Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers and binging Criminal Minds.
Ella Thompson is a third-year journalism major who's on general assignment for The Alligator's metro desk. In her free time, she likes to read, cook and think of feature stories for The Alligator.