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Tap remains a favorite for past, present

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Photo by Ishika Samant
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Despite the many bar options on Northgate,  The Tap on Harvey Road has remained a local and student-favorite bar for the past 30 years. 

Inside, an ornate copper ceiling overlooks dark wood-covered floors and walls, while high chairs and tables, carved with the names and initials of past customers, sit in front of a built-in stage. The main bar, large and wooden with a granite countertop, sits in front of a wall of exposed brick. In a cozy corner sits three wooden booths overlooking a pool table and dart board. Wrapped across the front of the restaurant is a wooden porch with more high chairs and tables, allowing bar-goers an escape from the loud music and voices that are common on a busy night. 

Before being moved to College Station in 1975 and transformed into a bar and restaurant, The Tap was once the old Waller, Texas train depot built in the 1930s, according to its website. Owner John Whittington, Class of 1986, was one of the founders of  The Tap and said the business has changed a lot over the years. 

“When we first opened, it was just a beer joint,” Whittington said. “We didn’t have liquor, we just had wine and beer, and back then, you could bring your own bottle in if you wanted to. But the bar was in the center … It was a big square, rectangular bar.”

Whittington said The Tap has seen many transformations throughout the years — such as removing the bar from the center of the restaurant in 1996 and adding a full-service kitchen in 1999. 

“When The Tap opened, there were 10 or 11 bars at Northgate, and now there’s 30 plus,” Whittington said. “Basically, I had to adapt to keep the students coming, and as generations of students graduated and moved on, The Tap wasn’t [as] big [of a] tradition it used to be.”

Despite Northgate’s competitive bar district, Whittington said The Tap offers something unique for its customers. 

“We came up with the piano bar, and that’s been happening for 25 years now,”  Whittington said. “We came up with Monday night karaoke, which is [usually] students and all the Northgate employees because Northgate kind of sleeps [during the week]. Our weekends are really Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.”

Whittington said The Tap doesn’t attempt to rival Northgate bars but instead offers something different. 

“We don’t really try to compete with Northgate on the weekend because that’s just where the students want to go, and there’s all the [bar] choices,” Whittington said. “We get the little percentages of people like, ‘I just don’t want to go to Northgate tonight,’ and they’ll come over.” 

As one of their favorite hangout spots, Aubrey Denson often visits The Tap with her friend group and said they enjoy the variety of events.  

“They do something different. It’s not just the same thing every night. They have game nights. They also have karaoke on Mondays and they have theme nights,” Denson said. “They switch it up. It’s not the same routine every night, which is fun.” 

Throughout the years, Whittington said The Tap has hosted a variety of bands — many of which went on to achieve major success including Maroon 5, Cody Johnson, Smash Mouth and more. 

“We see a lot of bands that come through and some go on to do big things,” Whittington said. “That’s kind of fun. We knew them when they were just playing here and couldn’t bring in 50 people.” 

Bartender and communication junior Riley Scales said the best part of working at The Tap is her coworkers. 

“We’re like a big family here and we just all really enjoy working together,” Scales said. “I had a friend that worked here. She had been working here for about two years, [and] just really described to me how awesome the environment was here. I feel like at a lot of bars, it’s hard to come across a very close group of coworkers and knowing you’re always going to have people to count on when you’re working with them.” 

Despite a fast-paced environment, Scales said she enjoys serving the polite customers who frequent The Tap. 

“Every type of bartending job [is] high stress,” Scales said. “Honestly, everyone here is just so respectful, we don’t really have to deal with a bunch of disrespectful people. Everyone’s really respectful to us, and it’s just always a fun environment in here.”

Scales said The Tap’s laid-back climate makes it stand out from other bars in the area. 

“It is very, very different than your noise cave or just like jamming all the time,” Scales said. “You can hang out, there’s music going and you can sit on the porch. Very chill environment for sure.” 

In addition to a relaxed atmosphere, Scales said the bar’s history makes it unique. 

“I know this bar specifically has been here for I don’t know how many years,” Scales said. “I love when parents that used to live in the town come here.  They’re like, ‘Oh, the bar used to be in the middle. I lived in those apartments over there.’ It’s always fun.”

Amy Joseph, Class of 1995, said she enjoyed frequenting The Tap during her time as an undergraduate. 

“We could walk there, it was a casual vibe,” Joseph said. “It’s where we would find all of our friends. You could go there with one person and do a few laps around the bar and you’d run into everybody else that you knew, so that made it really fun.”

Joseph said she created fond memories with friends at the bar, which is why it is one of her favorite bars in Aggieland. 

“I feel like a really exciting time there was always right before a break or finals before everyone went home,” Joseph said. “Or when everyone came back into town from Christmas break and you hadn’t seen everybody in forever, but it was your last opportunity to go out before classes started. I just felt like there was always a line out the door, and it was just tons of fun because everyone you knew was there.” 

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