Players U. beer costly
OAHU sports fans were disappointed recently when Players Downtown abruptly shut their doors over a rent dispute with their landlord.
Even before the bar made its move up Alakea Street to the space across from St. Andrew's Cathedral, Players had long been known as one of the more popular places for the Aloha Shirt Army to sneak off to, as well as a favorite for those early risers who want to catch all the NFL games on Sundays.
But Players Downtown is no more, its management now scouting new locations for the bar as far away as Waikiki. For those who can't wait for it to reopen, you have two alternatives for the time being -- Players Aiea and Players University. This week, the Barfly made his way up to Manoa to see if Players University still has what it takes to keep customers coming back.
Players Sports Bar
Hours: 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays - Fridays;
6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays / Sundays
Location: 1442 University Ave.
NOTHING HAS REALLY changed at Players University over the five years that I've been legally allowed to drink, and that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
While nowhere near as spacious as its sister location on Kamehameha Highway, there is still an adequate amount of space here to bring a group of friends for drinks and pupus. Almost 20 tables occupy the majority of the room, with another 10 seats or so open at the bar itself. Two big-screen televisions sit in opposite corners, with another half-dozen smaller screens spread throughout, making it incredibly easy to keep track of the game (or games) being shown.
Now you might be surprised how many so-called sports bars force their customers to crane their necks and sit in an uncomfortable position just so they can see a television; this isn't the case at Players University. My "research partner" on Monday was quick to point out that not only could he keep track of both the New York-Boston game and the live feed of Monday Night Football without having to turn his head, but he could also do it without having his view blocked by other customers in the bar. For some this might not seem like a big deal, but little details like where the televisions are located can mean the difference between visiting an establishment on a regular basis instead of just stopping in once and then looking for someplace else to go for the next game.
LIKE I SAID though, nothing has really changed at Players University, and this is most obvious when ordering a pitcher of beer. Ever since I first visited this bar, I've been surprised at how expensive beer prices were, especially with a certain competitor just down the street offering the same size pitchers for just $5. At Players, expect to pay at least $10.50 a pitcher, more if you want to drink anything other than a domestic brew.
Parking has also been a problem in the area, due to the simple fact that there isn't nearly enough available. Parking is so tight in the lot at Players University that you're almost guaranteed to get dinged by a door from the car next to you when that person decides to leave.
And what's up with the lighting here? Sure, dim the lights a bit to make it easier to see the televisions, but there's no need to make it strip-bar dark unless you're trying to cover up stains on the carpet or a lack of ceiling tiles. Or maybe the management is just trying to save on their electric bill -- that might also explain why it felt like the air conditioning was cycling on and off during our entire visit.
WHILE THE NEGATIVES about this place aren't necessarily enough to drive folks away (this was evident by the pretty big crowd on hand to catch a game at 4 o'clock in the afternoon), I'm worried that Players University will end up seeing their customer base eroded by competitors nearby with cheaper drink prices and more value for the money when it comes to food. Hopefully we won't see the day when your only way to spend some time in the company of the lovely Playerettes is to get in a car and make the drive out to Aiea.
How much for a Bud Light?
The Barfly paid $10.50 for a pitcher of Bud Light during his visit to Players University, giving this place the dubious honor of having the second most expensive pitchers of all the bars reviewed so far this year.
Get things to do?
Five dart machines occupy space along one wall of the bar; a pool table also sat near one of the big-screens that had a baseball game showing when we stopped by. There are also three video games you can play here: EA PGA Tour Golf, Golden Tee and a Ms. Pac Man/Galaga combo for those who want a taste of the old school.
What about the grinds?
Just like the beer at Players University, expect to pay a bit more than you would at other establishments nearby. But there are a lot of choices here; burgers ($4.75-$6.00), salads ($3.25-$7.95), potato skins ($6.50), nachos ($7.50) and even spam musubi ($.90) are on the menu, and I really enjoyed the mahi mahi sandwich ($5.75) that I ordered.
And the help?
For the most part, service here was average compared to other establishments of the same size. We didn't have any problems ordering food or drinks, but I've seen a single server cover the same amount of customers more efficiently than the three Playerettes that were working on the day we visited.
See the Columnists section for some past articles.
Barfly appears every Friday in Star-Bulletin Weekend.
E-mail Jason Genegabus at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.