Losing your GCB virginity: Expectations vs. Reality

A few weeks ago I turned 21 and, being a (relatively) normal human being, I naturally waited until the clock struck midnight; then, as soon as it was legal, I rushed over to Grad Center Bar to see what was behind the door to Narnia. Well no; I didn’t do that–it was a Sunday night and I was on work overload [Ed. – and they wouldn’t have let you in until the next day because #GCB!]– but I did make it over to GCB within the next week or so to see what all the fuss was about.

I feel like, as soon as you meet any upperclassmen at Brown, you start hearing rumors about GCB. Dude, were you at GCB last night? People talk about it like it’s some big secret. If you haven’t been there, you don’t know what to believe and what not to believe. You might have some obscure representation of the GCB experience in your mind. Having recently traversed the bridge between the pre-and-post-GCB life, I thought I’d share some seemingly common scenarios in the thought bytes that surround this mysterious locale. Take this, if you will, as a kind of FAQ guide to our on-campus hotspot.

GCB entrance

The entrance to Narnia, aka GCB (above).

  1. Where IS the GCB, anyway? It’s gotta be in some hidden spot on campus, in some unbelievably rad building. 

It’s all in the name. You know Grad Center? Campus’s most attractive building? Yeah, well if you walk up the ramp off of Charlesfield, as if you’re heading towards Bear’s Lair, you’ll get to an incredibly scenic patio-type space: ominous towers, cheerful concrete, decorative dumpsters, and several overly-aggressive squirrels will greet you. On your right sits a strange block of a building that looks like someone put it there haphazardly, perhaps in a poor attempt to cover up a bit of the sea of concrete. At best, it looks like it could be home to Brown’s biggest trash room. But if you walk up to it, there is a sign by the door that says “Hours,” which looks like it was printed off of someone’s home computer in an unexciting font. You walk in, go down a set of stairs (so that you’re no longer in the block building, but in the space underneath it), and you find a dim, surprisingly chill space called “GCB.”

  1. “Based on the stories I’ve heard, I imagine the GCB to be one of the smallest, oldest basement rooms on campus with a fireplace, a shelf full of board games, and a jukebox. Maybe even two jukeboxes.” — A Fellow Blogger

Well, the vibes of this vision actually aren’t too far off. The GCB does feel rather underground (remember walking down those steps?) and also feels a little like the 70’s was its spirit decade. But it’s actually not that small–there’s a main room, where the bar is, and then a couple of other rooms off to the side that allow people to spread out. Sorry to disappoint, but there is neither a jukebox nor a fireplace, not that I’ve found, at least (there do seem to be various nooks and crannies to explore). I’m pretty sure there are board games somewhere, but I haven’t stumbled upon those yet, either. The GCB mystery continues.

3. The GCB can’t be THAT great.

It’s cheap. It’s convenient. It’s reliable. You can go there on non-weekend evenings that. The decor is pretty neat. You’ll probably see some people you know, maybe even a professor. At the same time, it’s a new enough scene for you that it’ll shake up Brown’s nightlife a bit. Overall grade: A.


Ok, ok, calm down. It is pretty great, but it is not the be all end all. Who knows, maybe next semester I’ll change my mind and write a follow-up post listing all of its downsides. You’ve probably managed Brown for at least 2 years without the GCB option, so you’ll be able to manage for a bit longer. Also, it’s never open past 1:00 a.m. –hence the large crowd of vagabonds that’s often roaming around Grad Center plaza, looking a little lost, late in the evening when you’re walking back to your dorm (if you live in one of the towers, that is).

  1. Oh my God people keep talking to me about some membership thing and what does that mean and what do I do?!?

Alright, so normally you have to pay a $5 cover charge every time you hit up the GCB, but that goes away if you spend $35 to get a membership. It lasts a year, and the math says you have to go at least seven times during that year to make it worthwhile. What IS kind of a bummer is that the membership lasts from August to August, regardless of when you sign up. I would say it’s worth it, though, because as you know more and more people who can go to GCB, instead of just going occasionally, when you feel like turning up, you might want to pop in more regularly for a quick hello. And you don’t want to have to pay $5 every time you do that.

  1. Eh. It’s just another bar, right? I mean, the kind where you have to pay for drinks?

Well it IS a bar, but here’s the thing: the drinks there are INCREDIBLY cheap. I’m talking $2.50 for their beer and cider specials, $3.50 or $4.00 for just about everything else. I was chatting with an alum a little while ago, and he said something along the lines of feeling incredulous any time he went to a bar after graduation, because they were all SO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE than GCB.

  1. I feel like I’m about to be initiated into a cult.

Yes, there is a slight possibility you’ll end up going to GCB every night. For the sake of your liver, I hope not. But it IS a nice, reliably close spot to hang at if you have a free evening or want to banter with friends. That’s probably why it gets mentioned in campus dialogue so much. You’ll have a whole ‘nother world opened up to you, but don’t worry, your GCB relationship will totally be casual.

NOTE: I was talking to one of the bartenders, who’s probably around 30, and he said he’s been working there since he was 18. “Once people start here, they don’t really leave.” Alright, that may sound a bit cultish, but I think it just means that the GCB is kinda cool.

  1. No one ever ACTUALLY plays darts in a bar, right? I mean, that only ever happens in movies?

Yes. Yes they do. They also play pinball and pool.

darts in a bar











Images via  and via


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