By Tien-Shun Lee
St. John's University students say life has not been the same on campus since Gantry's bar on Union Turnpike, known to some as the “St. John's bar,” closed a month and a half ago.
“Gantry's went with St. John's life like the Statue of Liberty goes with New York City,” said one junior undergraduate who preferred not to give her name. “I had my first kiss at Gantry's.”
Gantry's officially closed at midnight on March 1, the day after its liquor license expired.
According to a spokeswoman for the New York State Liquor Authority, the bar was charged a $500 civil penalty for selling liquor to a minor in 1996. In 2000, more charges were brought up but were dismissed. No disciplinary actions had been brought against the bar this year.
“Their license expired on Feb. 28th of this year. It was not taken away from them,” said Janet Ellis from the State Liquor Authority. “For whatever reason, they decided not to renew.”
Police from the 107th Precinct said the bar was issued a summons in October for selling liquor to two minors.
Residents living near Gantry's, located at 177-01 Union Turnpike, had complained repeatedly of noise, urinating, broken bottles and rowdy, drunken kids, said police.
Frank DeAngelis had been the owner of Gantry's since August 1979. The original Gantry's, under different ownership, opened up in 1972.
At the University Center at St. John's University Monday, students reminisced about the bar's Wednesday “Kill a Keg” nights, Friday happy hours, Monday football nights and Thursday law school nights.
One woman student said she had Gantry's number programmed into her cell phone so that she could call to find out what the specials of the day were.
For “Kill a Keg” night, students would pay $5 to enter the bar, and be served beer from a keg until the keg ran out.
Other drink specials included Samir's Famous Shots for a dollar, and special red or blue shots that bar staff would pour down patrons' throats for a dollar.
“There really isn't a college life on campus, so without Gantry's there's no place for us to go,” said Ryan Crosby, a junior.
Crosby's friend, Matthew Steigerwald, said student life on campus has been dead since their favorite bar closed down.
“The first time I went out at St. John's I went to Gantry's,” said Steigerwald. “It's the bar across the street where you could hang out.”
On closing night, the bar staff played the theme song from the television show “Cheers,” thanked patrons for coming out and told everyone to leave at midnight instead of the bar's regular closing time at around 4 a.m.
“There were several people crying. A lot of people were upset because they didn't know where they were going to hang out,” said a student who used to go to Gantry's about three times a week as soon as it opened up to watch TV and chat with the bartender.
“There's a void in college life now… Gantry's was a place where everybody would get together at least once a week to play darts, play cards.”
Jody Fisher, a spokesman for St. John's, said the bar used to distribute fliers on campus advertising “Kill A Keg” nights. University officials, who require that all fliers be approved by the school's Office of Student Life, would forward the fliers to the State Liquor Authority and encourage them to investigate.
“We're in favor of people doing business, but they have to do business according to the law,” said Fisher. “You have to be 21 to drink… Certainly we try to encourage our students to do other things. We run lots of activities, all types of social events, mixers, dances, talent shows, movies. There's something going on every night of the week.”
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.