Exterior of the Down Under in 1992, courtesy of Amy KW, UD '91As of 2013, the downstairs space below Unique Impressions at 60 North College Ave. is occupied by Del Sol, and then in the prior seventeen years there had been La Tolteca, Tracks Restaurant, the Ground Floor, Maxwell T’s, and gaps when it was simply vacant. (Soon though, the building will no longer exist!)
But what survived easily the longest stretch in that space -- from 1977 to 1996 -- was the now legendary Down Under, which many simply referred to as the “DU.” An insanely popular drinking destination, I’d argue that the DU was Delaware’s best “gimmick” bar ever. Among the many promotions during its run:
“What the Buck?!” Nights were Tuesdays. And it was a HUGE night there. Mini-pizzas, beers, etc., all started at a buck a piece, and then went up throughout the night. I was amazed though when I dug up a DU ad in The Review from 1987; other food they used to serve included “New York Style” deli sandwiches. Reubens, Corned Beef & Swiss, that kind of stuff. And Mondays during the '85 - '86 school year, it was all-you-can-eat shrimp night! (Found that one in a UD yearbook.)
The Happy Hour Wheel on Fridays. They’d have drink specials on the wheel, spin it, and whatever it landed on was the deal for the duration of the next one or two songs (played by the DJ)…until it was spun again! Two of the advertised wheel deals in September 1994 were 25 cent drafts and 25 cent shooters. Those aren’t typos.
April “Rejection Month” for graduating seniors. If you brought in a rejection letter from any place you applied to for a job, you could trade it in at the DU, and they would “renew your spirits” with a drink on the house. There was a limit of one letter per person per night. I wonder though, how many people tried to falsify company letterhead(?)
Halloween Parties, Mardi Gras Parties, October Beerfest, etc. The DU found ways virtually every month to give away commemorative t-shirts imprinted with their kangaroo logo -- we’re talking hundreds of them -- tied to a holiday or event. They’d also do fun stuff like, “Battle of the Sexes” trivia…or maybe it was just a drink-off.
A DU ad from The Review, 1994Well, many people who attended UD while the Down Under was open, will say they didn't like it. They loved it. It was a very fun place, and if you lived on East Cleveland (as I did), it was the closest bar.
The DU closed (abruptly) in October, 1996. During the process of compiling Glory Days, I did receive some covert insider explanations of the DU’s demise, from people who understandably asked to remain anonymous. But have to leave it at that! Sorry for the tease.
After some dead time, the DU’s space changed to the short-lived Maxwell T’s, and then changed again to the Ground Floor. An “18 and Over” place, the Ground Floor had some minor success, but then bit the dust as well, circa 2004.
Rumor: The Ground Floor was shut, because some of the drinks were being “chemically altered.”
Dude, this is: Probably ridiculously false. I mean, that’s a pretty serious accusation…and if it was investigated and proved to be really the case, wouldn’t it have then become public knowledge, and covered in the papers?
“1996 to 2000 were all crazy years for that space. I actually went there under three different names; the Down Under, Maxwell T's, and then finally, the Ground Floor.
When the DU changed over to Maxwell T's, I only went there occasionally, the last time being the very last night it was open…the night of the ‘riot.’ That was a crazy night. My friend dived behind the bar to avoid being hit with flying bottles, and another friend was kind enough to shield me from all the mayhem with his body, until we were able to make it up the stairs and back outside. Then there was the frantic search for all our friends amid all the police and bloody and scared people spilling out into the street.
Finally, it became the Ground Floor, but that never really took off while I was still there, probably because of the memories of the final night of Maxwell T's. They used to host open mic nights with some pretty good original bands, but they didn't draw a big crowd anymore.
I lived on Cleveland Ave my last two years, where we had inherited the original signs from both the Down Under and Maxwell T's, which we proudly hung in the basement when we had parties.”
- Gretchen R, UD '00
“I LOVED the DU! Tuesday night was ‘What the Buck?!’ night. I remember that because the semester I turned 21, I had Pharmacology from 7 PM to 10 PM, and I would never get there in time for the $1 specials. The first hour everything was $1; appetizers, draft beers, selected drinks. Then the second hour it went up to $2, and so on. I think I'm remembering right. I loved the Happy Hour Wheel! And they had a good DJ. Where have all the good bars gone?”
- Christa, UD '96
“I loved the DU. I even loved it after being thrown out for using the Men’s room! In my defense, the Ladies’ room had some plumbing issues and there was about three inches of water covering the floor. The bouncer was so using his power for evil!”
- Melissa, UD '94
“LOVED the DU! I think I may still have a DU t-shirt somewhere. I was a regular there '92 - '93. Happy Hour on Fridays was the bomb! I would get there between 4:00 and 4:30. $5 pitchers of Genuine Draft (hey, at least it wasn’t Beast or Busch) and free pizza, nacho chips, and wings. We were living the dream! There was also a DJ and a smallish dance floor, so it usually turned into a drunken mess by the end of the evening for everyone. I remember many nights navigating that incredibly dangerous staircase heading back to North Campus. The memories...the DJ would play ‘Oh, What A Night’ by Frankie Valli, and people would lose their minds.”
- Stephanie, UD '93
“I bartended at the Down Under in 1988. The owner hated me. I gave away more free alcohol than was humanly possible. In exchange, I drank for free at other establishments. (Bartenders back then -- and maybe even still -- took care of each other when visiting each others' establishments.) I made an ass-load in tips. Friday Happy Hours were a great chance to load up on free pizza and chicken wings, while polishing off 50 cent beers. The staff turnover, though, would have made your head spin. I do remember that there was a fight there seemingly every night, and seeing the Newark Police arrive was, ‘Just another night at the Down Under.’
Having the staff shirt was chick magnet city. I can't tell you how much strange attention that shirt (and that job) garnered me…but it was far more than I deserved. For some reason, for many college girls, there was a mythologizing of the nightclub subculture where bartenders and bouncers were regarded as rock stars. Bagging a bartender (which I was) or bouncer, for many female college students, was on par with sleeping with one of the many musicians who played the stages on Main Street. I never understood that. Oh, and as an aside, working the underage night at the Down Under was a guaranteed hook-up night.”
(Digger’s Note: Underage nights at the DU were Thursdays, which I guess counter-programmed the Balloon’s Mug Night.)
- Kevin F, UD '90
Kevin F's final paycheck from the Down Under, from 1988...for a whopping $1.05. He never cashed it, and also note his Skid Row address!
Del Sol is here as of August 2013...but that's where the legendary DU had been!
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