Becoming RE//BAR: How One Local Bar Is Hoping To Bring Rock Back To State College
In the 90s, there was Crowbar. Today, there’s RE//BAR.
The little-known bar on East College Ave. is the newest addition to State College’s nightlife scene. Unlike its predecessor, Envy, the bar hopes to move away from the venue’s previous hip-hop vibe toward one that’s more punk rock.
It opened with the hopes of replicating the style and feel of Crowbar, another bar that stood in the same building at 420 East College back in the day.
From 1993 to 2006, Crowbar was the place to be if you wanted live music in central Pennsylvania. With few places downtown dedicated to providing patrons with solid entertainment in a smaller venue environment, Crowbar did well and gained a solid reputation.
Over the years, the venue brought in bands like the Misfits, Yellowcard, My Chemical Romance, and many, many more.
“We did every genre from punk to ska to hardcore to bands like Marilyn Manson, Godsmack, Creed, to even retro bands like Blue Oyster Cult, Men at Work, Joan Jett, so it was a lot of fun,” David Wells, the former director of operations for Dante’s Restaurants & Nightlife, said. “It was a challenge but it was a lot of fun.”
In those days, Dante’s Restaurants & Nightlife leased the property that Crowbar sat on. As director of operations, Wells played a role in booking a lot of the entertainment that came to the bar. Given State College’s location in the middle of the state, bands would stop over on an off night while bussing from Pittsburgh to the east coast.
Crowbar utilized its unique location in central Pennsylvania to take advantage of big-name bands passing through the area — like Train. A lot of the bands who were just starting off, like Matchbox Twenty and FUEL, played there on numerous occasions. The venue was a jumping-off point for a lot of them.
“We became their home away from home, so they would stop, and a lot of them would come back for repeat shows,” Wells said.
One of the coolest parts about the Crowbar was that it was one of the first split venues in Pennsylvania, meaning it could serve patrons 21+ on the upper floors and under 21 on the lower level.
The closest venue apart from Crowbar to offer this feature was a bar called The Chameleon Club in Lancaster. By offering an opportunity for people of all ages to come partake in the fun, Crowbar separated itself from everywhere else in State College. No one else was doing that.
However, there were a lot of other reasons for the bar’s success apart from this fact. Wells attributes a lot of Crowbar’s success to his team’s ability to utilize media outlets, promotional materials, a great venue with exceptional sound systems, and a fantastically unique vibe all around.
“The nice part was that everybody’s musical tastes are different and we were constantly able to offer them that variety,” he said.
Flash forward to today. New owner Mick Dougher hopes to bring some of that spunk back to the area.
“When [Crowbar] closed it really affected a lot of people. I’ll never forget the day it closed and a lot of people have great memories there with friends and having fun,” Dougher said. “It ended abruptly like boom, one day, no more Crowbar, and it really put a shock through the town. I think there’s been a void since. The town needs it.”
Dougher’s love affair with the venue goes back to its glory days when Crowbar offered live entertainment for all. He came to the area from Scranton in 1994 to play with his bands, Giants of Science, at various locations around State College.
While Crowbar consistently brought in big names, it catered to the smaller, local groups as well — especially on football weekends. Giants of Science was just one of a slew of other bands to take the stage back in the 90s and early 2000s.
“For the last 12 years or so it’s been more of a dance club, but I’m hoping to bring it back to what it was then,” Dougher said. “I was contacted that it was going to be available, so
In order to replicate Crowbar’s feel, Dougher contacted the bar’s former manager, owner, and a variety of other entertainment coordinators — including Wells — for advice. They played a tremendous part in getting the “band back together,” so to speak.
Despite the many ownership and name changes over the years (Cellblock, Mezzanine, Levels, Envy), much of the bar’s general layout hasn’t changed much.
In fact, the green room, where bands used to hang out before they took the stage, surprisingly hasn’t changed at all since the glory days. The basement room still boosts the stickers and graffiti art of many of the bands who graced the venue all those years ago.
Dougher and his fiancée Jennifer Stiffler have a very special connection to the bar as well, seeing as it’s where they first met. Today, they’re just hoping to add a little flavor to the State College music scene and carry on Crowbar’s legacy.
“It’s a great venue, there’s not a bad seat in the house, and we’re happy to be a part of the community again,” Dougher said.
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