What to do in New York City if you're under 21?
May 20, 2007 8:39 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to have fun after dark in NYC if you're under 21?

I'm going to New York City for the first time with some friends. 3 of us are over 21 and one of us is 20. I found a listing of some places in New York that allow minors in, and I've got lots of ideas for stuff to do during the day, but I'm wondering if it's reasonable to have a "night out", i.e. can we expect to be able to get into a few bars? What part of town might have the highest concentration of such places? And failing that, what are some fun alternatives for night time?
posted by nameless.k to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Bars that card will card you at the door. So, if you were willing to test things, go up to a place, have someone 21 walk in and out to see what happens. Most cool bars card- that's why everyone under 21 in NYC has a fake ID (I moved to NYC just shy of 21). You might have luck having dinner at a restaurant that also has a bar- I've never been carded sitting at a restaurant.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:00 PM on May 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

You probably can go into any neighborhood dive and get carded. I only get carded at places like Houston's or other touristy places, that doesn't include places that card at the door.

Your best bet is to go to Murray Hill or one of the more residential sections and hit one of the many local bars. I've never been carded in the East Village either, which is sort of depressing.

A little hint: demeanor is everything. Go into the bar looking fresh and ordering a complicated drink is such a give away. Never, ever, order liquor. Stick to PBR, Guinness or a macrobrew. Also, wouldn't use your credit card -- but that is sort of obvious.
posted by geoff. at 9:21 PM on May 20, 2007

Excuse me, and not get carded.
posted by geoff. at 9:45 PM on May 20, 2007


Cafe Wah? is 18+ and LOTS of fun. Great house band. Next door is the village ma for 18+ karaoke. can be fun, especially in groups.
Both places have drinks if you're legal.
posted by milestogo at 10:03 PM on May 20, 2007

Yes - geoff makes a good point. Bars and restaurants in NYC operate on cash; often cash is the only thing they'll accept. Don't be caught short.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:23 PM on May 20, 2007

The Time Out NY Student Guide is a trusty source for suggestions of all kinds.

I'm no longer a student, and several years past 21, but I only drink a couple of times a year, and still manage fun nights out. Not everything revolves around alcohol, and despite ThePinkSuperhero's insistence, not everyone under 21 has a fake ID.

This is a varied city, and it's going to come down to what your interests and the interests of others' in your group are. There are plenty of places, including restaurants, karaoke rooms, and other locations that serve drinks but let in the underage.

Good luck and enjoy yourselves.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:53 PM on May 20, 2007

E-mail me what days you will be in the city and what kind of bars you'd like and I can maybe let you know some places in the East Village.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:08 PM on May 20, 2007

ThePinkSuperhero, I have to say that hasn't been my experience at all. I've been carded at the door and by the bartenders of bars and I have been carded at restaurants. (Most of these cardings, I might add, have happened after I turned 21.) It's totally random and just luck most of the time.

milestogo makes some excellent suggestion. Quite a few dance clubs by Chelsea also have an "18 to enter, 21 to drink" policy, meaning those over 21 get a wristband and access to the bar.

I have a few more tips that can help your odds. I know the times when I'm ID'd the most are weeknights, non touristy places, and early in the evening. None of this info it foolproof, though. YMMV.
posted by piratebowling at 3:15 AM on May 21, 2007

I was obviously half asleep writing that last paragraph, the "most" should read "least." Bah.
posted by piratebowling at 4:50 AM on May 21, 2007

oops... screwed that up. I was trying to say here's a list of clubs that accept under 21 patrons...
posted by jk252b at 5:47 AM on May 21, 2007

First of all, see if you can borrow the real ID of a 21+ friend who looks remotely like you, as well as a backup (student ID would be good).

Barring that, Monday and Thursday nights at the Pyramid Club are 18+, if you're into drum and bass and/or 80s =) I personally love this place.

You may have decent luck with Irish bars, or hanging out by NYU and picking up flyers for parties. Thursday nights usually boast the most 18+ parties.

If you let us know exactly when you're going I can probably find something more specific...
posted by infinityjinx at 6:35 AM on May 21, 2007

BTW, the link jk252b posted is wayyyyyyyyyyyy out of date. Don't even bother with it, trust me.
posted by infinityjinx at 6:36 AM on May 21, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. We will be there may 27th thru the 30th (so the weeknight thing applies). Anyplace divey or with music is good.
posted by nameless.k at 6:49 AM on May 21, 2007

Something that we used to do a lot as well (went to college in a real college town... drinking was as big a pastime as baseball) was call the under 21 person the "designated driver" even if you're on foot. besides it's hard as hell to find a spot to park in the city so it's plausible that you'd be on foot for a distance when the bouncer sees you. I'd say for us that worked 8 out of 10 times, and the DD person has a magic markered X on their hand so the barkeep knows that they can't drink. If they don't just write an X on him, then ask him if he could because you're just trying to be responsible.
posted by FireStyle at 8:06 AM on May 21, 2007

What FireStyle suggests will never work in NYC.

I've been going to bars in the city for years (and I'm not yet 21). Whether or not you get carded and where is totally luck of the draw. In high school the general rule of thumb was the "bell curve"--really divey places and really upscale places wouldn't card, but anything in the middle might. (You should note that I am female, and it is easier to drink underage in the city if you're a girl. Sad but true.) Any place with a doorman in front will most likely card.

If you can't get an ID for your friend, your best bet is to dress nicely and just try your luck. If a bar won't let your friend in, try someplace else. There's no shortage of bars in the city.
posted by cosmic osmo at 9:26 AM on May 21, 2007

Don't dress like students, walk into a bar, and order some drinks. If you get carded, go to the bar next door. Repeat until you get served.

If you look more like professionals than students, you'll get booze in no time.

(By the way, if it wasn't obvious, the underage person should claim not to have ID when asked.)

I have a friend here in NYC who until recently was under 21, about 4'11", and looked 16. She had no trouble getting into bars because she didn't dress young and didn't look nervous.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:47 AM on May 21, 2007

Uh, that is, don't dress like a student, but do walk into a bar and order some drinks.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:48 AM on May 21, 2007

Divey? Well then, you can't go wrong with Sophie's. First bar I went to as an NYU-er. Six years later and I have yet to prove my age to anyone there. Great jukebox. Cheap drinks.
posted by undercoverhuwaaah at 2:12 PM on May 21, 2007

OMG, undercoverhuwaaah, I had a near identical experience withSophie's. It's the stuff of legends for that. I do remember my freshman year a raid happening there, though. I didn't go back since.
posted by piratebowling at 4:34 PM on May 21, 2007

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