‘I’m broke’: Pitt students consider ways to drink cheaply on campus


Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer

Two shot glasses sit on a table.

By Abby Lipold, Staff Writer

When it comes to drinking on a college campus, one of the biggest priorities Pitt students cite is money. 

“Absolutely. I’m broke,” Noah Baker, a sophomore political science major, said when asked whether price was a factor in going out.

Out of all the bars on campus — including Hemingway’s Cafe, Mario’s Oakland Saloon, Phat’s Bar, Bootleggers, Panther Pit and Gene’s Place — several Pitt students revealed their favorites, based on price, safety and overall atmosphere. For instance, some bars offer activities such as pool and trivia night. Different types of alcohol, the size of a group and special deals at bars can all factor into how much a student is willing to spend on a given night. 

“If I’m going out to Hemingway’s, I’m probably only holding like $10-15 if I’m sticking [to] the $5 pitcher. The most I’ve spent this year since turning 21 is, like, $75 in one night,” Baker said. 

According to a study in The Journal of Primary Prevention, deals and promotions at bars are associated with increased alcohol sales to college-aged students. The study also found that cover charges at bars are associated with higher levels of drinking, possibly because students want to “get their money’s worth.”

Addie O’Malley, a junior ecology and evolution major, agreed with Baker that price was a major factor in her decision to go out.

“[Price] is significant, and probably the second or first priority when I go to drink,” O’Malley said. “I really don’t want to spend more than $12 on a drink, ever.”

In terms of specific deals at popular bars, O’Malley referenced the nightly $5 pitcher at Hemingway’s and $3 draft nights on Saturdays at Phat’s. 

Jenna Ross, a senior chemical engineering major, emphasized atmosphere in addition to price, saying she prefers the more laid-back places to frat parties or bars with dance floors. 

“I mostly go to the more relaxed bars on campus, so Hemingway’s or Bootleggers are my main two, just because Hemingway’s I like to go on trivia nights with my friends,” Ross said. “It’s more laid back and we can have one or two drinks and not really spend a lot of money, and then play trivia. And then same with Bootleggers, I’ll go there to play pool and just talk with friends.”

In terms of prices, Ross added that she typically only spends $10-15 per night and her favorite deals were the $5 pitcher at Hemingways and $2 beers at Bootleggers, especially during happy hour. Baker and O’Malley also noted that beer is the cheapest type of alcohol, followed by vodka and tequila — which are the “bottom shelf” liquor, as Baker put it. 

Although bars provide a fun alternative to parties, Baker and O’Malley said they would rather stay in and drink because alcohol is cheaper at liquor stores than bars. 

“Pitt has a huge house party culture, just because our bars are very limited, and so the house party culture has to thrive because people can’t afford [bars],” O’Malley said. 

It seems as though if bars want to compete with Pitt’s house party culture, deals and activities are the way they can get students to pay more for a bar experience. However, for some, it will still come down to price. 

“I could buy a single bottle of cherry Burnett’s [vodka] for $15 and drink the whole thing and be done,” Baker said. “That’s why I usually stay in.”