Turning 21-years-old is often seen as a significant milestone, and for many, is considered the first real taste of adulthood. For students living in San Luis Obispo, going on a bar crawl downtown is the traditional way to celebrate, and is considered a rite of passage for many 21-year-olds. 

This year, the coronavirus pandemic has all but quashed this tradition with the closure of many bars and strict limitations on social gatherings — forcing students to find alternate ways to celebrate their birthdays.

Computer science senior Cole Cummins is attempting to replicate the bar crawl experience for his roommate’s birthday by bringing the bars to their backyard.

Cummins said he has been planning a surprise bar crawl for his roommate, complete with signs and stations set up around their backyard that represent each of the downtown bars, such as Bull’s Tavern and Black Sheep Bar & Grill.

“We have a sign for [‘bull sweat’], and we’re going to make him stand up on a chair and do the ‘bull sweat’ and do the ‘silver slipper’ after that,” Cummins said. “So just trying to keep the spirit of the bar crawl going.”

Cummins said that although some bars downtown are open, he and his roommates are concerned about how the bars are enforcing social distancing and mask wearing, and felt safer celebrating at home.

Audio by Jennifer Newton


Other students, like marine sciences senior Sean Leddy, skipped the festivities and opted for a more laid-back occasion with family.

“My dad got me some beer as a birthday present,” Leddy said. “Then we went to a brewery, had a couple beers there, and then had some beer at home and went to bed — that was about it.” 

Although it was not the event he was expecting, Leddy said he enjoyed it, as he was not in the mood to go out that day anyways.

Industrial engineering junior Kyle Pearson, who turned 21 over the summer, originally had plans to turn his birthday into a vacation by flying to Boston and visiting historic breweries and bars with his family.

However, when the pandemic put restrictions on airplane travel, he decided to go on a road trip that essentially turned into a cross country bar crawl with his family.

“We had to drive [my cousin’s] car from Los Angeles to North Carolina, so we decided to make that my 21st road trip,” he said. “We went through the national parks like Zion and Grand Teton and Yellowstone.”

Since Pearson was 21-years-old, he would order beers at local restaurants and outdoor breweries along the way. He said traveling across the country during a pandemic was strange, but ultimately added to the unique experience of this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Although he visited several breweries around the country, Pearson added that they were outdoors, and he would not feel comfortable currently visiting indoor bars and breweries in downtown San Luis Obispo.

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