Still in the bubble: Whitties in the Walla Walla bar, club scene

Liz Sieng

Photo Credit : Fennell

The Whitman campus generally seems to have a reputation of being an isolated community, but often, this stereotype proves shallow and unwarranted. Recently, The Pioneer set out to see if students who are “of age” break out of the bubble while imbibing at Walla Walla’s local bars.

“I think most Whitman students actually aren’t interested in the bars and clubs in Walla Walla,” said senior Katrina Schenck.  “I think most Whitties’ social lives center on campus and on parties around campus. Occasionally people will go out and have a drink or two at a bar, but for the most part I don’t think it’s a part of their lives.”

Schenck works as a bartender at The Green Lantern on Isaacs Avenue, also known as “The Green,” a popular local hangout for Whitman students and faculty. Schenck said that she made many good contacts with people while on the job, including Whitman professors, students, and many regular visitors from the Walla Walla community.

“I think it’s a nice escape from the Whitman bubble,” said Schenck, explaining why students choose to visit local bars and clubs. “It’s nice to go out and eat or get a drink. It’s nice to leave campus and go out for a bit.”

In a campus-wide survey conducted by The Pioneer last week, students showed a limited interest in local bars and clubs. Out of 133 respondents, 37 percent said they visit local bars and clubs once or twice a month and 30 percent said they visit only once or twice a semester.

The survey also showed that students overwhelmingly prefer the Green Lantern, which is located just a few blocks up Isaacs Avenue from campus. Out of a list of nine options, students responded with The Green Lantern (73 percent), Millcreek Brewpub (41 percent), The Red Monkey (41 percent), or “None” (20 percent).

Additionally, the survey showed that students predominantly hang out with Whitman students (81 percent) or mostly Whitman students and occasionally friends from Walla Walla (23 percent), while few hang out with friends who are from Walla Walla (7 percent), and even fewer try to meet new people in bars (5 percent). Most students go because they “enjoy visiting bars/clubs in town” (66 percent) or are “looking for an alternative to college parties” (61 percent), while fewer go because they “get bored at Whitman parties” (31 percent) or “have nothing better to do” (25 percent).

Senior Alex Thomas said that community atmosphere is a major factor in why students choose not to participate in local bars and clubs. For her advanced filmmaking course this past semester, Thomas helped create a documentary called “The Regulars,” which centers on the bar and karaoke scene in The Golden Horse, a local Chinese restaurant on Ninth Street in Walla Walla.

“I think that Whitman knows about [The Golden Horse]; it’s just not the place to go for Whitman students. The only time I’ve seen Whitties there is when I bring my friends,” said Thomas.

In researching for the film, Thomas and her co-creator, senior Lara Goodrich, have visited karaoke and bar nights at The Golden Horse four times a week on average. Thomas said that The Golden Horse has a distinct crowd made up of regular local visitors who are in the 40-60s age range. Thomas said that Whitman students can easily become intimidated when entering such a setting.

“I feel like unless you care about the place or you’re immersed in the community like we are, there’s more places for a college student to go,” said Thomas.

In the campus survey, students also commented on the quality of local bars and clubs and their distances from campus as important factors for Whitman students. Respondents expressed distaste for the local bar and club scene and even a desire for an on-campus bar.

“It’s established itself as a Whittie bar in some ways,” said Schenck, describing The Green. “I think it’s been around for a long time, and it’s close in proximity. Also, I’ve been to a fair amount of bars in Walla Walla, and it’s definitely the least sketchy bar.”

For now, while factors like traveling distance and community atmosphere hold strong influence over the decisions of Whitman students who visit local bars and clubs, partying outside of campus will continue to exist inside the bubble.