Nightlife, and Young in Manchester

MANCHESTER -- In a March 2009 interview with The Daily Mail, a newspaper in the United Kingdom, Welsh actor Rhys Ifans said that the culture he comes from places the pub at the center of the community.

"The pub is the Internet. It's where information is gathered, collated and addressed," he said. "A pub can be a magical place. And in terms of the history of creativity, very underrated. . . But it's a disappearing culture, which is absolutely bloody tragic. It's socially crucial to the whole of Britain. In fact, a pub is like a watering hole. . .Every species has its pub "

Manchester shares lineage with Britain's pub culture. Incorporated in 1761, the town was named after Robert Montagu, the third Duke of Manchester. However, what town now lacks is a watering hole of its own, a place for locals to gather, visitors to witness first hand the characters that inhabit this portion of the Northshire and a place where everyone knows your name. Where is Manchester's pub?

In the early 1960s, there was a town watering hole, The Five Flys. Kim Kimball, a Manchester resident, remembers nights out dancing and spending time with friends.

"The name, Five Flys, came from a restaurant in Amsterdam," he said. "When I was there years later, I parked and there it was right in front of me [the original Five Flys]!"

Kimball said there was live music, dancing and a bar on nearly every floor. Along with dancing, there was a reception room upstairs for large parties and pool tables on the ground floor. "It was always busy. . . a joining kind of place," he said.

Now the Five Flys is no longer and while Manchester has its share of places to enjoy dinner and a drink, there isn't a current equivalent. The Perfect Wife has live music, as well as a bar, like Firefly and Mulligans, but there isn't a place everyone recognizes as the center of town - both physically and metaphorically.

Amy Chamberlain, the owner of The Perfect Wife, said she is grateful for both the support of locals and the tourists that come through on the weekends. But, unfortunately she can no longer afford to bring large bands on a regular basis, mostly due to a reluctance by patrons to pay a cover charge. There is still open mike night on Wednesdays and live music on Fridays.

"As much as I can, I try to give them what they want," she said. "People like to hanging out after dinner. . . enjoying the music."

While enjoying music at "The Wife" is fun, some of Manchester's younger residents are hesitant to really enjoy themselves. Erynn Hazlett, the tavern manager at The Perfect Wife and host of WHAM 2020 on GNAT-TV, said to many younger people in Manchester, the police 'stalk' nightlife. "Even if you want to go and have a couple of drinks with your friends, it's not worth it," she said. "If you get a DUI [driving under the influence] your whole life is ruined."

The area leading into Winhall, almost directly north of The Perfect Wife on Route 11 is colloquially referred to as "The Gauntlet" because of police presence in the area, Hazlett said.

Manchester Police Chief Mike Hall said that he does not believe in police officers "lying in wait" near bars and restaurants, hoping to catch someone driving impaired. "I would frown upon any of our officers 'lying in wait,'" he said. "We do get a lot of outside agencies focusing on Manchester."

Hazlett said while there are cab companies in Manchester, they have a reputation for not picking up people or saying that it is too late for the cabs to run when they receive a call. When asked about "the gauntlet" Sgt. Josh Epstein of the Winhall Police Department said that because of the high density of restaurants and bars in the area immediately before the Winhall-Manchester town lines that there are more stops in that specific area.

"There's no specific group of people that are targeted. . . Route 11 and 30 is the most high flow traffic in our town and [therefore] commonly patrolled," he said. "Plus, it's the safest place to stop cars. If you start going up the mountain, it gets very narrow. . . especially if the weather is bad. It's [the pull off on Route 11 30] the ideal place to make a safety stop."

The ability to hail a cab is only part of the issue, Hazlett said. There is also the geographic distance of getting from, for example, The Perfect Wife, to somewhere like Arlington or Londonderry. Most cab drivers won't take someone that far, or it would be too expensive, she said.

A call placed to Manchester Mini Van Taxi service found out they will only accept fares until 9 p.m. and the call to Manchester Taxi only reached voicemail.

"I'm a one man operation with very little advertising, but I'm not one of these people who blows people off," Leonard Dubrow, owner of Manchester Mini Van Taxi Service said.

Dubrow did say when he does take late night cab fares, it is usually when he has dropped the customer off at a location and then already has plans in place to pick them up.

But it's not just a lack of nightlife, it's a lack of anything to do in general. During her WHAM 2020 show that aired on Dec. 23, 2013, Hazlett addressed the issue of illegal drug use in Vermont, specifically heroin. She cited an ABC news report where a young woman said she -- and others like her -- started to use heroin out of boredom. Hazlett said the only thing to do in Manchester is eat or go shopping at the outlets.

One option is working on getting a new skate park open. Huck Gibson of Vermont Skateboards, said the town will match up to $50,000 to build a new skate park at the Rec Park. "The skate park is one of those things [in town] that needs a revamp," he said.

So far, there has been good support from the town, Gibson said and they are optimistic about the project. A skate park, Hazlett said, would give young people a place to spend time and be a positive outlet. Manchester is also home to WEQX, an alternative music radio station that broadcasts to Albany, N.Y., Keene, N.H. and parts of western Massachusetts.

Jeff Morad, station manager, said when he first came to the station, he asked why there weren't shows hosted in Manchester.

"We had a couple of shows, a couple of parties, and nobody showed up," he said. "We're an independent station and it's tough for us to lose money, when we do a show in Saratoga or Clifton Park, we don't have the population problem. [but] I see a lot of the people I recognize from Manchester."

Morad said along with the population issue, there is also the factor of public transportation to consider when hosting an event like a concert. "I know when I go to a show, I know I'm going to drink and I think how am I going to get home?" he said. "I've been blown off [by cab companies in Manchester] before."

Hazlett said just fixing nightlife is just the first issue. Manchester, she said, needs to reconsider it's identity and take into account the decisions made by the 'elders' in town, but also the needs and wants of the next generation. "Manchester needs to be known for something other than outlets. . . it needs to be inspirational. We need to be bold enough to influence the rest of Vermont, New England or the whole United States," she said.

This article is the beginning of a series on what it is like to be young in the Northshire. Next week, the cost of living and starting a business will be examined.


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