It's Friday night, or technically Saturday morning, and you just want a beer. Someone maneuvering towards the bar just smacked you in the face with his elbow, but you're more concerned with trying to breathe because the room is consumed by smoke. Next task: Figure out how to make it through the throng of people waiting in line for the bathroom. Figured out where you are yet?
Welcome to Maggie's Neighborhood Bar and Grill, the Emory north campus, if you will, with perhaps more parking than Emory West. With lines often stretching to the adjacent Famous Pub and Sports Palace, the obvious question beyond why people wait to get in is how this little bar in the Toco Hills Shopping Center became so attractive to Emory students of all variety, from freshmen to seniors.
||Paul Halloran lines up another shot in a game of eight ball. Emory students continue to line up outside Maggie's.
Part of the answer can be found in University actions themselves. After all, Maggie's wasn't always the only choice. "When I visited [Emory as a prospective student], we went to Taco Mac in the Village," said Joe Tauscher ('00C). According to Tauscher, people went to Taco Mac after class, did their homework there and then stayed all night. The University was less than thrilled about the bar's close proximity to campus, so Emory helped close it down the summer before Tauscher's freshman year leaving Maggie's as the sole Emory watering hole.
Why does almost everyone feel the need to make an appearance at Maggie's at least once a week, if not six? As a pseudo-Cheers, students said the convenience of Maggie's and its comfortable atmosphere are big draws. College seniors generally have a sense of nostalgia, understandably mixed with boredom, for Maggie's; most of them have spent a whole lot of time there.
Business School senior Erika Covarrubias said she started going to Maggie's with upperclassmen soon after she got to college. "It definitely initiated me into my Emory experience," she said. "It's a good place to meet up with your friends late night. You'll always see someone there that you know."
Other seniors agreed. "I know the bartenders, and they're nice," said Business School senior Sam Lucas.
"You can be really social or just hang out in a booth with your friends if you want," College senior Ali Gorson said.
When Business School senior Gita Rai transferred to Emory from the University of Georgia last year, she found that Gorson was right. As a new student, she said she discovered that Maggie's "was a better place to get to know people than the clubs in Buckhead." Compared to the Athens scene, "Maggie's is not a labeled place like certain bars at UGA," she said. "It's nice that everybody can hang out together."
Younger students also understand the Maggie's draw. College sophomore David Gryboski said, "Maggie's is the place where everyone always ends up."
Maybe that's because Maggie's is just around the corner. "There's no closer, better alternative," College sophomore Jeff Lewis said. "If you live in Calibre [Woods apartment complex], you can even walk home."
College junior Trey Wilson agreed. "Toco is just really close, and I don't have to wear black pants when I go," he said.
The atmosphere at Maggie's may be casual, but Emory students know that it's also a place to be seen and to see others. "Everybody knows your name," College junior Dave Butenas said.
When freshmen become initiated into the Emory social world, they usually start with Thursday nights in Buckhead and Fraternity Row on the weekends. Before long, they hear about Maggie's.
"It was the first place people were talking about in orientation groups," College freshman Brian Wolfe said.
College freshman Lesley Matty agreed that Maggie's is something of a legend. She said freshmen want to go there "to get in with upperclassmen," and noted that Maggie's is a "tradition for Emory students."
And College freshman Brett Pollack has already had the pleasure of experiencing Maggie's. While he said that "nothing compares to Miami, it wasn't too bad for a hole in the wall."
But some freshmen haven't been so well informed. "What's Maggie's?" College freshman Bethany Craven asks.
"I haven't been there yet," College freshman Brad Clark said.
The freshmen that have heard of it have also picked up on the convenience factor. "It's closer than Buckhead," College freshman Chris Maxwell said. "I guess that's why it's so popular around here."
College freshman Jessica Lawson said she's heard it's the "center of life off campus."
Maggie Martin herself had some insight as to how her bar became the mecca for socializing. She says that two years after she bought the bar in the fall of 1992, she hired a Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity member from Emory, Bill Johnson, to work for her as a bartender. Maggie's has had a reciprocal relationship with Emory ever since. "He brought all of his friends over, and since then, I've always hired Emory students," she said. "I'd like to hire some Emory girls, but it seems to interfere with their dating life." Her approach seems to have worked. "I think I've put a few people out of business," she said.
Maggie's has also been lucky in retaining a faithful staff. Rich Caldwell, the bar manager, was a bartender at Famous before he began working at Maggie's in 1995. He said Maggie's was an Emory bar even before he started. "We've outlasted the others because we form long-term relationship with the students," Caldwell said. "I thought I'd be here a year, but I can't leave my clientele."
And students have no intention of deserting the bar either. The Maggie's experience for Emory students is a compilation of a close drive (and taxi ride home), friendly bartenders and a place where you can meet your friends at any hour.
Maggie's remains the master of the "Emory scene," and even those who complain about it can be found sitting in a booth until closing time.