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Ciss-Boom-Bar!

O.C. collegians get back to the business of stress relief at local hangouts.

September 25, 1997|ZAN DUBIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I'm what you call a regular here," blurted Chris Roth above the band. "I don't pay cover, and I don't wait in line."

He didn't turn 21 before starting to frequent his favorite bar, either.

"I've been coming here since I was 19--on a fake ID--and you can quote me," Roth said.

Scores of Cal State Fullerton students such as Roth hang out at Fullerton's Off Campus Pub. It's their bar away from home, their bigger, louder, younger Cheers, just as "O's" is for Chapman University students.

"You never hear anybody say O'Hara's," the full name of the taproom, said Chapman sophomore Sara Elizalde.

Some students get wistful or look aghast when asked where they party. Too much homework. No time, what with school and work.

But many more spend off-time each week among schoolmates, gravitating to the corner bar, coffeehouse or dance club, to talk shop (or anything but), catch the game, shoot pool, hit or be hit upon, or drink or dance academic cares away.

The lawn at Hope University has to be Orange County's most unorthodox college hangout, but a crew of the school's predominantly Christian population amasses there at least once a week after a Tuesday night worship hour, some relieving tension with talk until 3 a.m.

"Our [personal] life doesn't even start until 11 p.m.," said senior Mimi Lee.

Here's where many of Orange County's collegians head when the need for R&R is too strong to ignore.

OFF CAMPUS PUB, FULLERTON:

A banner tacked above the dance floor reads "Welcome Back CSUF." The team smiles in a photo from 1995, when the school won the College World Series, seem to shout "Titans rule!"

"That's my buddy, Kevin the deejay," pointed out senior Roth, one of the those, present and past, who help the Off Campus Pub earn its name, especially on Thursdays, when most collegians start the weekend.

"Seventy percent [of our clientele] is from Cal State Fullerton," said bouncer Jason Duffaut, a Titan himself.

The imposing, sporty bar just across Nutwood Avenue from campus opened three years ago. It took its name from the school's on-campus Pub, where students also congregate.

With music blasting and $1.50 beers ubiquitous, the boozing and cruising builds on Thursdays until elbow room evaporates. Jeans are tighter and voices louder than they need to be--it's a scene that not everybody loves.

"Students need a place, like, where they can talk about issues [without shouting] above the loud music," said Chris Long, an English major on his fourth beer. "Issues like politics, art--everything except for consumerism and all the things that are the plague of our society." ("It's called the library," quipped friend Jadie Kadletz.)

Still, despite the occasional complaint, most are happy to have a watering hole nearby that supplies the school with a critical sense of community, said marketing major Scott Bergstein.

Only about 2% of the school's 24,000 students live on campus, Bergstein said, while its fraternities and sororities suffer from lack of participation because so many students work.

So the Off Campus Pub "is the only place students can relate to with a school spirit," he said.

O'HARA'S, ORANGE:

Just try to find anybody at O'Hara's on a Thursday night who's not a Chapman Panther. The scruffy, brick-lined bar has been a school institution for the 25 years since it opened, according to management and just about anybody else you ask.

"We still get some alumni who have been coming in since that first year," said bartender Freda Easton.

Proximity is part of the draw.

"You can walk home drunk" instead of risking a DUI, said one regular who preferred anonymity.

A dozen fresh-faced students presided over a wooden table freighted with beer mugs and cheap aluminum ashtrays in the belly of the narrow saloon the other night. The cast changed frequently, as new arrivals slapped backs and plopped down and other friends took off.

As conversation careened from new jobs to condoms, the friends belted such kick-back anthems as Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville," singing in unison along with the deejay's selected cuts.

With about one-sixth the number of students as CSUF, and nearly a fourth of them living on campus, Chapman has a more closely knit student body. Several fraternity brothers wore identical white T-shirts bearing their house's letters, something unseen at the Off Campus Pub.

"Friends of friends are just the same as friends," said Elizalde, a business communications major who lives in the school's dorms.

"It may not be the [fanciest] of bars," she said, "but whatever goes on during the week, we can let it go. The point is we're all together. We go out dancing, too, but you can't talk as much."

THE LAWN

Hope International U., Fullerton

Hope students "take it outside" when Dorm Devo, a worship hour held Tuesday nights in the men's dorm, breaks at 11. That's when quiet time begins and men and women are no longer permitted in each other's quarters.

Bars and most dance clubs are out for Hope students because most don't drink, and, by 11 p.m., many coffeehouses are closed.

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