BY: ADAM TURNER
A bar can be more than just a place to stop and drink. For some, the right bar can be a place of friendship and camaraderie. A source of comfort. Or even a home.
For many Richmond locals and Eastern students, Madison Garden is that bar.
“I always say it’s a great place to bring mom and pop and your grandma during the day, and then at night we kind of get wild,” said Jason Vaughn, 24, paralegal science major from Harrodsburg. Vaughn, alongside Jansen Lenzi, is the co-manager of the bar and grill.
“It’s more of a chill restaurant setting to get a quick bite to eat during the day, and after 10 it’s more of a bar atmosphere with good drinks, and it’s the cheapest place to drink in town,” Vaughn said. “Never a cover, never a minimum.”
The bar, which just celebrated its 31-year anniversary last Saturday, is by far the oldest of its kind in Richmond. What began in 1982 as a simple biker bar, opened by Eastern graduate Tom Thilman and his brother with little more than horseshoes and cheap beer, has developed over the years into a full-blown bar and grill andf a community staple.
“It is very much a place where memories are created and revisited,” Vaughn said. “It’s unique that we pull in a crowd that is so diverse. It’s just exactly like tailgating at Eastern because you’ve got old people and young people, and when the young people get older, they’ll come back to do it again. If you have parents who went to Eastern, they definitely probably partied at Madison Garden then, and some even have grandparents who did.”
One of the bar and grill’s biggest draws, Vaughn said, is the grill itself. According to the website, the restaurant menu features “monstrous burgers, mountainous salads, almost New York Pizza and the best wings in the area!”
“I’d definitely say a big reason people come is for the food,” Vaughn said. “It’s a place where you can drink and eat so that’s a big tool. You can get a piece of pizza by the slice, and it’s giant, New York style pizza. It’s under five bucks and it’s a great feeling to eat before you leave. We serve food all the way up till one.”
Madison Garden also sports some of the best prices and widest selections in town.
“We have cheap shots: 75 cent panty droppers and bourbon,” Vaughn said. “And we’ve got cheap beer too, over 175 different beers for people who are looking to try a bunch of different microbrews, so we have more beers in town than anyone else.”
Just because the bar has such built-in history does not mean the current management is shying away from creating new traditions as well.
“Every Thursday, we’re now doing ELECTROLYGHTZ, which is where we feature local DJs,” Vaughn said. “Electronica-that includes dubstep, trance, techno, club music, etc. We’re really focused on bringing in local electronic musicians to give them a venue to play at.”
“We also have a brand new website, www.madisongarden.net,” Vaughn said. “We keep it updated constantly so you can find out who the D.J.s are on Thursdays and who’s playing on Friday nights as well. You can get our food and drink menus, as well as watch a really funny video about how this place started.”
Others echoed Vaughn’s feelings about the long-lasting business.
“It’s just been around forever; it’s the go-to spot in Richmond,” said Phillip Salisbury, 21, computer science major from Paintsville, a cook at the establishment. “People grew up in Madison Garden.”
And those very same people who grew up there are still returning today.
“We’ve been here before anyone else in town and we’re gonna be there for another 30 years,” Vaughn said. “So when people graduate they can still come in and bring their kids in to eat and then drop them off and drink at night to relive their party days.”
Carrying on the tradition for years to come.
“What we really want to do is hold on to that sense of tradition,” Vaughn said. “Places like Bailey’s and Sapphire are fresh and new, but the new wears off, and eventually you go back home. There are other places in town where people will go, but they’ll always come back to us because we’re their home.”
Madison Garden is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sundays noon through 9 p.m.