It was a Thursday night in San Luis Obispo and hundreds of Cal Poly students were up late cramming—but not for an exam. Instead, almost 400 people packed into the garden bar at Creeky Tiki, the week’s “Bar of the Night.”
Bar of the Night, the student-run takeover of a downtown bar, is planned, promoted, and DJed by a group of four Cal Poly students. The weekly event alternates between Mother’s Tavern (MoTav) and Creeky Tiki.
Bar of the Night began in April of last year as an Instagram account. Founders and Cal Poly alums Jesse Sanchez and David Klopp started the account with the intention of bringing their friends together to enjoy their last quarter.
“We set up polls on the Instagram story, similar to a March Madness bracket, just filled with bars. Whichever bar won was the bar of the night,” Sanchez said.
In the early stages, Bar of the Night had nothing to do with DJing. Sanchez and Klopp just decided to gather a large group of their nearest and dearest and fill a bar downtown.
“The first event was at MoTav. No entertainment or drink deals were involved. It was a strength in numbers type of night. I’d say about 100 of us took over this place and caused quite a ruckus,” Sanchez said. “Being the small town [San Luis Obispo] is, information travels quickly. The next day, we saw funny text messages [from the] MoTav fan-base feeling overwhelmed by our presence.”
Bar of the Night quickly evolved into something more as Sanchez and a few of his close friends started DJing their own events and making promotional posters to attract larger crowds. According to Sanchez, Bar of the Night got so popular by the time he graduated that bar managers were messaging him trying to get the Bar of the Night team to put on events at their bars.
Monica Reyes, the manager of Creeky Tiki, has been working with the Bar of the Night group since the very beginning. According to Reyes, Bar of the Night brings a unique energy.
“There’s an excitement in the crowd since many of them are friends with the DJs,” Reyes said.
English senior Lauren Turner was one of the many in the crowd at Creeky Tiki on Thursday, Oct. 10, for Bar of the Night.
“It’s a totally different vibe [at Creeky Tiki] when Bar of the Night is there,” Turner said. “There’s a lot more familiar faces and it’s way more crowded than other times I’ve been there.”
Wanting to keep the party going after they graduated, Sanchez and the rest of the original team passed it onto a new group of DJs for the 2019-2020 school year.
Current “manager” of Bar of the Night and industrial engineering senior Preston Stebel became involved in spring 2019 as a DJ. Before Bar of the Night came around, the bars downtown were missing the mark when it came to their music selection, according to Stebel.
“I think the main reasoning behind [Bar of the Night] was to get the kind of music the Cal Poly [student] body likes so that people are more inclined to go to the bars and not necessarily stay up near the school,” Stebel said.
Stebel, whose sets are composed of house and disco music, said all four of their DJs bring their own style to their set. They are also in the process of recruiting more DJs who can further diversify the group’s offerings.
Bar of the Night resumed hosting events Sept. 17 after taking the summer off. So far, the group has agreements with Creeky Tiki and Mother’s Tavern to host bi-weekly events that switch between Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“[Bar owners are] very open to us as long as we follow their rules and do everything that they want,” Stebel said. “They pretty much give us free reign and allow us to do whatever we want.”
Stebel said he is currently looking into expanding Bar of the Night to other bars in downtown San Luis Obispo and even Mr. Rick’s in Avila Beach.
As of right now, through Instagram and word of mouth, the team brings in hundreds of people, mostly students, to each of their events. According to Stebel, they are not yet being paid for the events; however, there are some good perks, like $300 worth of drinks on the nights they perform.
Although minimal payment could be helpful for the group to continue improving the quality of their events, it is not about the money, according to Sanchez.
“The moment this turns into a monetary business is the point the events will lose integrity,” Sanchez said. “I don’t want people to show up to the events just so [we] can cash in. That’s not why I do it, I just want everyone to have fun. And if that’s through my DJing, or everyone getting cheaper drinks, then I’m content.”
As the events grew, the Bar of the Night community has grown larger as well.
“It’s just cool how everyone is getting more involved with it, and everyone wants to help and come up with themes and come up with different bars to do and different ideas, so that’s just the coolest thing is how many people are interested in Bar of the Night,” Stebel said.
Kelsey Luvisa and Jayna Dunning contributed to this story.