Ah, freshman year. A new campus, a new city, and new people. Only one problem: if you are lucky enough to befriend upperclassmen, you'll soon realize that they may leave for certain mystical locations that a practice known as "getting carded" prohibits you from entering.
But fear not. There's no need to risk your future by seeking out a fake ID, or hope that your older sibling has an old license to loan to you. Rochester still has a nightlife scene that the under-21 crowd can enjoy — even if it does mean you won't be able to take part in the drinking. You'll be able to do that legally soon enough. Until then, here are some places to check out that will let you into the party. And your over-21 friends will always appreciate having a sober DD around.
This isn't a comprehensive list; just a starting point. Many clubs and venues will host special 18+ events — especially around the college schedule — just not as frequently as the venues we've listed below. And note that selected locations aren't always 18+ either, so make sure to check ahead of time.
If we missed any under-age hangouts that you love to hit, be sure to comment online on the article at rochestercitynewspaper.com.
Tilt Nightclub & Ultralounge
Hot body contests. Cage dancing. Drag shows. A festive and LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere. That's Tilt for you, making it a unique and important part of Rochester's nightlife scene. The even better part for you young'uns is that Tilt extends to the 18+ crowd, and local drag queen DeeDee Dubois hosts a Wild College Party series throughout the school year. For what it's worth, my personal all-time favorite senior night while I attended the UR took place at Tilt. Note that the DJs play the music LOUD, so you just might want to bring some earplugs.
One Nightclub and Ultra Lounge
Upper and lower floors and three bars on the upper level (including a seasonal deck) make One one of the roomier clubs in town, giving you all the more room to dance. One offers weekly 18-and-over nights on Thursdays, so while you won't be able to experience the full weekend club scene yet, think of it as an intro course, like Rochester Nightlife 101. One is also on the more upscale side of the East End Nightlife circuit, so don't be afraid to pull out those shiny shoes. That said, recent events at One have included a Jell-o wrestling party and a summer pool party. Nobody said that growing up couldn't be a little fun.
Vertex Night Club
If the regular drinking crowd doesn't seem like your scene, perhaps something a little more alternative might be up your alley. Vertex is Rochester's underground/goth/geek nightclub, proving that even the most shy of individuals can use a good night out on the town. Aside from the resident weekly DJs, events of the past year have included a Hobbit party, several cosplay events, and a video-game night. Brush up on those costumes and represent with your best nerd cred.
Why let your over-21 friends have all the fun? You could head to some places that give them a bar, while giving you some good noms. RIT students will find Lovin' Cup more accessible than other schools, but this gem at Park Point in Henrietta provides a quirky and beautifully decorated bar, plus a café and restaurant, that also hosts concerts as well. The music and events will get you in the door, but the atmosphere and menu (with food names that call back to the location's musical roots, such as the Rage Against the Green Mexican salad, I'm Hot for Teacher panini, Deep Purple eggplant parmesan, and my personal favorite, Blue Suede Shoes, a chicken-wing flatbread pizza) will keep you and your of-age drinking friends coming back to a place you both can enjoy.
The Bug Jar
While many of the places on the list have certain nights they are open, The Bug Jar offers something the rest do not: seven days a week live entertainment. Split between a bar and a small concert area, The Bug Jar also hosts local art exhibits, and is a great crossroads of Rochester's local and underground music and arts scenes. The Bug Jar does have age restrictions for certain events and shows, so check ahead. But it's a good way to have a mixed-age group of friends spend a night out, grab some beverages, and take in a good show while you're at it.
The Old Toad
Depending who you believe, America may or may not have been founded by the prudes who left the drinking and open-mindedness of Europe for a calmer land. Luckily, in Rochester you don't have to travel all the way back to the Empire to experience an authentic British pub. You can go to the Old Toad instead. This downtown business is also staffed by actual British people through a university exchange program, so the staff can sympathize with your college troubles. And while you under-21s may not be able to sample all the different globally sourced beers the Toad has on tap, you can join in on other activities, such as the recurring trivia nights (now on both Sundays and Mondays). It's a much more casual and laid back atmosphere, and the family-friendly dinner spot is great for late-night snacking. After 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays the place does turn 21+, but at least you can get a taste the rest of the week.
Not to be confused with a certain scallywag's beloved pirate ship, Rochester's Pearl Nightclub is another club that only opens its shell to the under-21 crowd one night a week. But, Thursday nights can be just as fun as the rest of the weekend, and let's be honest, Friday classes aren't that important. Recent visiting DJs at Pearl have included Alex English, Baauer & RL Grime, DJ Neill MacLeod, and Bonobo. Oh, and there are lasers. Can't forget the lasers. Pearl is also a little bit on the fancier end of Rochester's club scene, so those sweatpants you haven't washed all week probably won't cut it.
Boulder Coffee Co Café & Lounge
100 Alexander St. 585-454-7140 | 1 Public Market, 585-232-5282. | 960 Genesee St., 697-0236 | 739 Park Ave., 697-0235. | bouldercoffee.info
With not just one, but four, locations across Rochester, Boulder provides that Swiss Army knife solution for a night out. Want to catch a band or play in an open mic? Check. Want to grab a drink (alcoholic, or not)? Check. Want to relax and get some work done while enjoying creative and interesting Rochester? Check mate. It's not so much a club as the other spots on this list, but a cool and relaxed coffee spot, with live music or performances at several of the venues. Whatever you are looking to do, Boulder, open seven nights a week, can scratch that wanderlust itch.