By Emma Demosthens
Walking out of Chaibo’s last week, I had the privilege of meeting downtown Fitchburg’s sweetest bartender. Tom Kelly, proud owner of Backstreets Pub, is a charming, blue-eyed former coach with a soft spot for college students. And he’s got a whole slew of ideas that make a Thursday night at Backstreets sound hard to turn down.
If crowded clubs and expensive drinks aren’t really your thing, and you’re looking for a chill place to grab drinks with a few buddies, Backstreets is the place for you.
Formerly known as The Wine Cellar, it’s been a staple hangout place for FSU students since 1980–ask any of the alumni from that time. But due to an unfortunate economic downturn, The Wine Cellar was closed down for about year during 2012-2013. But when one door closes, another door opens. The Wine Cellar made a comeback as Backstreets Pub in early 2014. In a little over 14 months, Kelly has revamped the bar, making it a welcome place for both students and non-students alike.
Backstreets has a cozy but modern atmosphere, slightly similar to its neighbor Chaibo’s… only different. The pub has brick walls both inside and out, and features BOSE surround sound speakers- perfect for their free weekly concerts Friday nights. Previous concerts have featured talented musical guests such as Scott Babineau, TREBEK, and Lizzy Marquis. During the spring and summer, the concerts sometimes take place on the outside patio under the lights. Inside, three large flat screen TVs make it the perfect place to grab a beer and catch the game, or play a round of darts. And it helps that they have a pretty good selection of draft beer and cocktails. (*When you’re there, ask Tommy for “Backstreet’s “Cinnabun Martini”- it tastes like Christmas)
With drinks set at college-friendly prices, and just a 3-5 minute drive from campus, what’s not to love?
But that’s not all. Last week as we sat and talked, he let me in on a few of the Thursday night events he’s got planned, including activities like Trivia Night, Cards Against Humanity tournaments, corn hole games on the patio, and more, but I’ll leave the rest for you to come down and enjoy for yourself. Kelly plans to kick-off the summer season with a grand opening of the patio at the end of April with live music and entertainment, free food, and more.
“I’ve been in the bar business for about 24 years, part-time and full time. I like the bar business, I like people.” says Kelly. “When I saw the place, I knew what the potential was, but I also knew the limitations…. I can’t have food in here.”
Backstreets doesn’t have a kitchen, but don’t let that stop you– they’ve got menus from restaurants all over the area. You could order your favorite sub from SuperFans, buffalo chicken tenders from Chaibo’s, or go with a group a friends and each shell out a few bucks for a large pizza. “It’s not a problem, we have restaurants from all over deliver here all the time” says Kelly. But if you’re looking for something light and don’t want to order out, there’s complimentary popcorn; and hot dogs at only a few bucks are available.
Tom Kelly is confident that anyone who walks into his bar, won’t have a bad time. He talks to me about his vision for the bar to have a great community environment, regardless of age. “Everybody here is nice, you know, it doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 35, you’re all just people and you all can get along.”
We talked a little about some of the negative stereotypes that plague the college student population. “Never judge a book by its cover,” said Kelly.
Speaking of his previous experience working in other bars he said, “Some people think, ‘Oh, all college kids are the same, they all just wanna get drunk and are looking for trouble or whatever.’ But I know that’s not true. And for every blue-haired, tattooed, pierced-up college kid that’s walked into my bar, you wouldn’t believe it, those were some of the smartest, sweetest young adults I’ve ever met.”
Kelly attributes his success in the bar business to the welcoming environment that Backstreets provides, but even more so to the great team he’s got working with him. “You’re only as good as the people around you. But the fact that I’m a sweetheart doesn’t hurt either,” he says with a grin.
I’d encourage you to go down with a few friends and check out Backstreets on a Thursday night. And for Film/Video students, this place could be a great location for your next short film. Those interested can contact Tom Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to like and follow Backstreets on FaceBook.