On March 23, 2001, when Temple University men’s basketball edged out Penn State in the third round of the NCAA tournament, people piled into the newly opened campus bar, the Draught Horse Pub & Grill.
“Having an absolutely packed, you know, sold-out atmosphere for a tournament and away game at a time when people rarely came to the campus and nobody really lived ‘round here, that was a pretty cool moment,” said Mike Frost, a 2002 criminal justice alumnus and general manager of Draught Horse.
Draught Horse, located on Cecil B. Moore Avenue and 15th Street, announced it is closing on Feb. 21. After 20 years of serving the Temple community, students and alumni are sad to see a restaurant where many met for drinks and created memories close its doors.
The restaurant is closing permanently, as they were not able to secure a long-term lease from Temple, who owns the building, The Temple News reported.
“It’s always something you think about when your lease is coming to an end, something that weighs on people’s minds, with the pandemic and everything,” Frost said. “It wasn’t like it was fresh and sudden, it felt like something we kind of knew was a possibility.”
When he was a student, Josh Verlin, a 2012 broadcast journalism alumnus, met his dad in the booths of Draught Horse for lunch and ordered burgers together.
Verlin isn’t shocked that the Draught Horse is closing because the past year was tough for many restaurants and bars, but he’ll be sad to see it go, he said.
“Even for those of us Temple students who weren’t big drinkers, the Draught Horse was a cornerstone of the campus,” Verlin said. “It was always vibrant and buzzing like a great college bar should be.”
As of Dec. 7, 2020, 17 percent of restaurants in the U.S., or more than 110,000 establishments, had closed permanently or long-term due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Kurt Gibson Jr., a DJ who frequently played at the Draught Horse, said the bar’s staff members were dedicated to making sure Temple students and community members had a great experience every time they came to the restaurant, he said.
“I’m positive that the owner, the bartenders, security and everyone involved has put their entire emotion and well-being into bringing a room to life over the past two decades,” Gibson Jr. said. “I am lucky to say I had the pleasure to be included and involved.”
Meredith Gibson, a sophomore psychology major, hasn’t visited Draught Horse yet, but feels like it’s special because it seems like a tradition for students to go there, she said.
“I’m kind of sad that it’s closing because now I won’t ever have the chance to go,” Gibson added.
Julia Eustace ate at Draught Horse with her parents when they dropped her off at campus or when her parents came to visit. She always ordered her favorite menu item, the grilled chicken caesar wrap and fries, she said.
Eustace, a freshman undeclared business major, is disappointed to see the Draught Horse closing because it takes away an option from the already small selection of restaurants around campus, she said.
“It’s like a restaurant desert out here, compared to like, Center City,” she said. “If they want bar food, I don’t know where else they can get that around here.”
Lee’s Hoagie House, a sandwich shop previously located on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 15th Street, permanently closed in December 2020, and Pazzo Pazzo, a pizzeria located on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near Willington Street, filed for bankruptcy in October 2020, The Temple News reported.
Sam Zeller, a senior communication studies major, worked at Draught Horse from August 2018 to March 2020, when the managers began scheduling fewer bartenders and servers because COVID-19 decreased business.
Serving at Draught Horse was the best job she’s ever had, and leaving felt like leaving a community of close friends, Zeller said.
Zeller has seen people posting memories from Draught Horse on Instagram, which brings back memories for her from her time working there. She’s upset she won’t be able to participate in Draught Horse traditions, like Fifty Cent Friday or Wild Wednesday, Zeller said.
“All the memories and stuff like it really just reminded me and like solidified how much the Horse means to literally everybody at Temple,” Zeller said. “It was like really bittersweet to watch all of them.”
While Frost is upset that Draught Horse is closing, he is more sad that students, faculty, staff and community members won’t have a place to go for lunch, meetings or happy hours, he said.
“I knew we were so much more than the bar everybody knew about on a Wednesday night,” Frost added. “We were a bonafide restaurant, a place that parents felt comfortable coming to dinner with their kids when we visited campus. I feel bad for everyone that used us for those things, that will never have that exact chance again.”