Every campus develops a unique, symbiotic relationship with its surrounding community (depending on who you’re talking to, some might call it a parasitic one). Some establishments thrive, but only because of the steady business from students. The school year just marks the busy season at the end of a slower summer. So where do the collegiates at each RI university go?
Brown University (PVD)
Plopped ceremoniously onto the east side of Providence in 1762, Brown University is Rhode Island’s own Ivy League. The campus is sidled up alongside Thayer St, and many of its students frequent the bars and restaurants there. Though anywhere is fair game, the craft beer and tastefully grungy atmosphere of the English Cellar Alehouse is supposedly a fan favorite. Viva is the go-to for those looking for pulsing, dance-fueled fun. Rumor also has it that Whiskey Republic is immensely popular — as the students love their “Whisko Wednesdays”! But everyone in the know raves about the Graduate Center Bar (GCB). It’s in the basement of of the Graduate Center complex and has a door that looks like a nuclear fallout shelter. Brown and RISD students get free membership access and can bring outsiders in, but anyone looking for access without a student ID will have to pay for a membership.
Bryant University (Smithfield)
Blackie’s Bull Dog Tavern clearly riffs on Bryant’s bulldog mascot, and serves up comfort food to those hungry pooches, but is also a favored watering hole. Parentes, just outside campus (as in walking distance) is the students’ go-to bar during the week, especially Tuesday and Wednesday, despite also catering to a sampling of local regulars. Added plus: free popcorn for all at night. Last Resort is the go-to Thursday night spot, and Thirsty Beaver is a newer spot that students seem to enjoy. Beyond that, Bryant students will make the trek all the way down to PVD for clubs and/or house parties with the PC kids.
Johnson & Wales University (PVD)
Even JWU’s culinary students in the slightly outlying Harborside campus have an easy time with quick Uber and Lyft rides into the city, but house parties seem like the most popular nightlife option for many students. The Brass Monkey, owned and operated by a pair of recent JWU grads, is just up the street offering nice decor, great food and even better programming.
JWU’s Downcity campus is on the southern tip of downtown (aptly named!), and is a short walk away from gems like The Dean Hotel and its eclectic fares. They have a lot more walkable options, including the absurdly close Ultra the Night Club and The Spot Underground.
Providence College (PVD)
Authorities have been rightfully cracking down on underage drinking at the bars and houses around campus, but PC still is a regionally recognized party school. A number of bars ebb and flow in and out of existence, but Olde’s has long been a go-to dive bar for students. PC has its own bar in the student center, McPhail’s, that offers programming throughout the week and live bands every weekend night. The Abbey is famed for its burgers and wing nights, and is popular among both upperclassmen and professors. Also popular, Ladder 133 swarms with PC students on the weekends. Once upon a time Friars took cabs to Fish Co., and the tradition stands, but now they take Ubers to Whiskey Republic.
Rhode Island College (PVD)
Though a dry campus and largely a commuter school, younger RIC students were once known to frequent Mugshots, especially on Tuesday nights for 50 cent beer. But then, one thing led to another and it was closed down. Tantric Nightclub on the East Side has been a popular Thursday destination, especially for the ladies (18+ for them). RIC’s student body also dabbles in PC’s nightlife as well, oftentimes polishing off the night at Golden Crust pizza.
Rhode Island School of Design (PVD)
In arguably the best position of all the PVD schools for nightlife, RISD is toward the East Side, but still very close to downtown. Wild Colonial is a popular watering hole, especially due to proximity, with its aged wood and exposed brick decor. Trinity Brewhouse is another go-to, particularly in the basement section. Some say that many RISD students prefer the small, private parties to actually going out, and/or they piggy-back on Brown’s parties and bars.
Roger Williams University (Bristol)
Though a bit distant from Bristol’s downtown, RWU has a number of options a short ride away. Aidan’s Pub is the expansive, inexpensive crowded bar that many of the students wind up at. In near proximity are Bristol Oyster Bar, Bar 31, Judge Roy Bean Saloon and Thames Waterside Bar & Grill.
University of Rhode Island (Kingston)
Ticket Tuesdays and Sunday Fundays at Ocean Mist have always been South County favorites for weekday drinking. Rhody Joe’s is a hot spot in Wakefield Center and great for a sit-down meal that won’t blow your entire booze budget. A college and local favorite, Mews Tavern has 69 beers on tap. Charlie O’s offers good atmosphere and friendly staff and is where most of the kids from the Briggs Farm and Eastward neighborhoods area end up drinking most nights of the week.
Salve Regina (Newport)
There are three main bars that people go to during the school year: One Pelham East on Tuesday, Gas Lamp Grille (affectionately called Trash Lamp) on Thursday and O’Brien’s on Saturday nights. One Pelham East has a 50 cent draft night on Tuesday, so anyone looking to pinch pennies (aka, every college student) heads down there for that deal, especially when DJs and dancing is part of the deal. Gas Lamp has a bar upstairs and a dance floor downstairs with a decent DJ on Thursday nights. O’Brien’s is where most Salve kids go on Saturday nights. It’s pretty much a Newport staple, but tends to get rather crowded. It’s mostly outside, and there’s a DJ in the back. Lots of people just go because they know other Salve kids are gonna be there, too.