For 10 years, students have ventured off campus seeking the overcrowded dance floor, the blaring pop music and the copious drinks. But Brown's Wednesday-night tradition has come to an end with the closing of the Fish Company.
After a month of rumors about renovations, a New Year's Eve reopening and conflicting Blog Daily Herald reports, Fish Co.'s website has confirmed that Brown's Wednesday night hot spot no longer exists.
The Rhode Island State Police Underage Drinking and Nightclub Safety Task Force raided Fish Co. Nov. 4, and arrested 26 people for "Unlawful Drinking and Misrepresentation by an Underage Person," according to a Nov. 5 press release. Three Brown students were arrested at the bar.
Raymond White, deputy superintendent and chief of field operations for the Rhode Island State Police, told The Herald that he was unaware of the direct effects of these arrests on the bar. "Nightclubs will be under scrutiny by us, but the licensing board will be the one who can make the decision. We had members of Providence Police with us (on the night of the Fish Co. bust), and they turn that information over to their respective licensing board," he said.
After the arrests, rumors circulated through the Brown community that Fish Co. was permanently closed. But according to the bar's website at the time, it was only closed for renovations and was set to reopen on New Year's Eve.
At that point, the information on the website was true, according to Blaine Grinna '11. Grinna had been organizing Brown Night at Fish Co. and knows the bar's former owners, Jay and Gene, though he said he does not know their last names. While Fish Co. did get fined a total of $650 as a result of the Nov. 4 raid, according to Providence License Administrator Serena Conley, that night did not directly lead to the bar's ultimate closing.
A decision made between Fish Co.'s two owners months before the raid played a larger role in the end of Fish Co., Grinna said.
The famous riverside building will reopen in March, but under a new name and new management, according to TonightinRI.com.
Neither the former nor the new owners of the venue could be reached for comment.
‘An equal opportunity place'
"Fisch Co. was an institution," Grinna said. Fish Co. has been a staple of Brown's social scene since 2002, when a few members of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity started Brown Night at the bar to earn money working as bouncers, he said.
"All the alumni are sad about the closing. It's a formative part of the Brown cultural experience," said Kate Whalen '07.
Whalen said the first time she went to Fish Co. as a first-year, she did not know what to expect. "You walk in, and it's completely overwhelming," she said. "It's not like the rest of your Providence bar experience."
"I remember having so much fun dancing there freshman year," she said. "You just go and get lost in the crowd. I think we did more dancing freshman year than senior year. Senior year was just more chill at Fish Co.."
The news of Fish Co.'s closing circulated among Whalen's friends within hours of it being posted on Blog Daily Herald, she said. "Fish Co. was so different than going out on Thayer Street or going to a house party," she said.
"Fish Co. was one of those places that regardless of who your friends were — whether you were a sports person or a frat person — everyone would go," she said. "Fish Co. was an equal-opportunity place."
Even though she graduated Brown, Whalen said she cannot imagine not being able to return to the bar. "We wanted to rent Fish Co. to have a party for our fifth-year reunion. Everybody loved that place. I don't know where else you could get dressed up and go out with 20 of your friends on a Wednesday night."
"And Halloween Fish Co. and all those special Fish Co.s — what's going to happen?" she added.
Mourning the 'Co
Students on campus had similar concerns about Fish Co.'s fate. Walker Williams '11 started a "Free Fish Co." campaign Dec. 1, when Blog Daily Herald first reported a rumor that it was closing.
"Whether you love it or hate it, Fish Co. was part of Brown culture," Williams said.
Williams designed a "Free Fish Co." T-shirt and, within the first night of launching the website, there were 200 preorders, he said. "We wanted to show the owners of Fish Co. how much support they had behind them." There were 1,500 hits to the website on the first night — "a quarter of the Brown student body, which gives you an idea of how big Fish Co. was on campus," Williams said.
Whalen and most of her friends purchased "Free Fish Co." T-shirts to mourn the loss of the bar.
Swathi Bojedla '07 said that two years ago, one of her friends rented a party bus in New York City to take recent alumni back up to Brown to celebrate a birthday at Fish Co..
Bojedla still remembers her first night at the bar. "I thought Brown was the best place on Earth partly because of Fish Co.," she said. "I also met so many of my good friends there." During her senior year, Bojedla and her friends all signed up for the same existentialism class Thursdays at 1 p.m. so they could recap the night at Fish Co. together every week, she said.
"Obviously, Brown's an amazing school, and everyone is so smart, but it was great to have an off-campus crazy college bar to go to," Bojedla said. "I don't think a lot of other Ivys have that."
Bojedla and Whalen both said that memories of Fish Co. are something that alumni and current students can bond over and share.
The end of an era
"Wednesday nights will never be the same," Dave Rosen '14 said. "Fish Co. was a great way to break up the school week . . . you can't really dance at frats. Fish Co. was definitely the most wild and it was fun to chill on the porch there."
The University administration knew that "Fish Co. was the Wednesday night thing," said Margaret Klawunn, vice president ofcampus life and student services. The University had to deal with several incidents a year that occurred either at Fish Co. or as a result of an event that took place at the bar, she said. A policeman was also stationed at Josiah's on Wednesday nights to handle any problems, which were more likely to occur when students returned to campus from Fish Co., she said.
While Brown students dominated 515 S. Water St. on Wednesdays, Thursdays were Providence College Night.
"Thursday nights were definitely Fish Co. nights and were a blast," said Amanda George, a sophomore at PC. "It was the melting pot for all the schools and was physically bigger than the other bars we go to."
In addition to the end of an era of Wednesday nights at Fish Co., the closing will have further implications for Brown's social scene. "Not having Fish Co. definitely changes rush," said Adam Driesman '12, the recruitment chair of the Sigma Chi fraternity. "It was a great place to meet a lot of the potential rushes and was an equal playing field for all the fraternities." He added that the fraternity is seeking a new location for its "annual disco inferno party," which is nicknamed "Disco Fish Co.."
Even though "Fish Co. was the spot," Grinna said he hopes students "can continue to have incredible experiences like we did at Fish Co. as a student body, not just as small cliques in respective College Hill bars."