After decades of serving the Lawrence and Merrimack College communities, the Claddagh Pub announced back in August that they would be shutting the doors to their longtime location in downtown Lawrence at the end of this year and moving to a new location that is still yet to be disclosed (though after talking to a manager at the pub, they are eyeing locations in Lawrence and Haverhill). While this is a heavy loss for the many 21+ students who frequented the pub on Thursday nights, there are thankfully numerous other options in the area for getting drinks and pub food in a fun environment. Many of these places already get Merrimack visitors to a degree, but will hopefully get even more next semester as people look for new options for a night out.
First off is Jimmy Culpepper’s Pub and Grill along Route 114, a mile down the road from campus. This place has more of a restaurant feel, with a drink menu consisting of 20+ varieties of beer and a rotating list of specialty drinks. One of its best features, particularly for Merrimack students, is its exclusive Mug Club membership. Members of the Mug Club get their own personal 20oz mug that is kept at the restaurant, which they can drink all of their beers from for only 50-75 cents a round! On the flip side, Culpeppers doesn’t stay open particularly late, closing at only 10pm most nights, but is still a good spot for affordable pub food and drinks.
Next up is Shoyu, a new Asian bar and restaurant near downtown Andover. It opened its doors last May, and offers relatively cheap Asian food and an extensive, cocktail-heavy menu of drinks — including Asian-influenced drinks not found anywhere else in the area! It’s one of only a few places in the area open late at night, closing at 11:30pm on Thursdays and 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, and offers karaoke during those late weekend nights, where a microphone gets passed around through the crowd as you sing your heart out to hit songs of all genres.
Casa Blanca has been a mainstay in downtown Andover for Mexican food. However, it also has a sizable drink menu that goes beyond just the predictable margaritas to include dozens of other cocktails (not to mention 12 flavors of margaritas!) and 16 types of beer. Most cocktails are priced around $10, with beers priced in the $4-5 range. And their food menu is also extensive — ranging from burritos, fajitas and tacos to more creative protein and vegetarian entrees. It’s open until 11pm on weekends, kitchen included, making it a great spot if you’re craving a generous plate of authentic Mexican cuisine.
The Gateway Lounge on the Lawrence-North Andover line is clearly eyeing the title of Claddagh Successor. It offers a variety of fun activity nightly, including paint nights on Tuesdays, karaoke on Thursdays and Sundays, and DJ-spun music on Friday and Saturday nights. DJ JayD, who usually plays Claddagh on Thursday nights, has begun to spin at the Gateway on Friday nights too, making for a familiar face at a fresh new spot on the Lawrence Riverwalk. The Gateway is open from 5pm-1am most nights as well, and offers plenty of free parking onsite.
Otto Pizza in downtown Andover is certainly not your mother’s pizza spot. Their menu contains flavors not found anywhere else, like Loaded Baked Potato, Spicy Pulled Pork, Mushroom and Manchego, and their Hawaiian pizza made with hot honey. They also offer trivia on Wednesday nights, music bingo on Monday nights, and Merrimack nights (25% off all orders with a Mack card) on Thursday nights, making it a great place to go with friends to split a pizza and socialize.
Just 20 minutes down the road and home to a UMass campus, Lowell certainly has a more vibrant restaurant and bar scene than the Andover area. The Blue Shamrock, located downtown, has been frequented by UMass Lowell students for years, and has recently been attracting a clientele of Merrimack students who are willing to drive a bit further for a good time. “The Sham” always has a packed dancefloor and is a great place for UML and Merrimack students to experience more of a club vibe without having to go into Boston. It offers a menu of affordable drinks and pub food, including some of the cheapest cocktails in the area (starting at $6).
Finally, Rolf’s Pub in downtown North Andover is a classic dive bar, offering cheap drinks and pub food in a friendly environment. This is more of a townie spot, but with drinks starting at $3.50, it’s still worth checking out. There are pool tables, darts and live music on the weekends, and it’s the only dive bar in the area, so if you’re looking for a place where people will know your name and drink order after only going there a few times, Rolf’s is a great option.