Rumors have spread about a new uptown bar, but Bar 1868 is anything but “new” — as the name suggests, it has been around since 1868. Or at least the building has.
Bar 1868 officially (re)opened Aug. 29 at 13 W. High St. Does that address sound familiar?
Senior Angela Hatcher thought so. It used to be the home of Cellar Bar.
“We all went a little crazy because that place has so many memories for us,” she said.
The rebranding, which owner Lee Ann Shoker has spent half a year constructing, is at the cost of old Cellar Bar patrons, which was made up of mostly black Miami students.
“The fact that we had somewhere where we could go where we were surrounded by people that were like us, and liked the same music as us and wanted something that was chill but still really fun on the weekends — it made Cellar like a second home on the weekends for us,” Hatcher said.
Lee Ann Shoker inherited Cellar Bar last January when the previous owner, Shoker’s father, died unexpectedly. Shoker said that she is not trying to push anyone away, but instead trying to make Bar 1868 a place for everyone.
Shoker still thinks that Bar 1868 will serve as the cultural hub that Cellar Bar created.
“I don’t think that’s gonna, per se, change, and that’s not my intent by any means,” said Shoker. “I really see it as a place for everybody.”
Regulars at Cellar Bar might remember David Shoemaker, or “DJ Shoe,” as he was commonly known. Shoemaker graduated in the spring, and in his place are a handful of new DJs who trained under him, including senior Anna Clark.
Clark has been featured twice so far this semester at Bar 1868. Reflecting on her experience this year compared to her relationship with the bar last year, Clark admits that the vibe has changed.
“I think the clientele has shifted a little bit,” said Clark. “They’re trying to do more private rentals, which reaches out to the greek community.”
Exactly the kind of atmosphere that Hatcher said her group of friends had been trying to avoid.
“I was friends freshman year with a lot of people who were part of the multicultural program and it was really nice to feel like we had a place where we could go to that was specifically for us,” Hatcher said. “And that’s not something that you get, especially in these communities in Ohio.”
Shoker has made a lot of changes since rebranding the bar. Their hours have expanded to Wednesdays through Sundays, and the bar is open for business during the day on Saturdays and Sundays. Staff has grown from five workers to over 30. The walls went from Miami red to a shimmery gold.
Shoker said that there had always been a lot of confusion around the brand — the original name was Hole in the Wall, then Cellar Bar. She said it was time to “start fresh.”
“My goal was to let things operate as they were, because he [her father] had a lot of irons in the fire,” said Shoker. “Outside of dealing with the grief of his passing, it was kind of like drinking from a fire hydrant with all the things that I was going to be managing.”
Despite the feeling of being overwhelmed, Shoker seems optimistic about the future of the bar.
“The goal is to be part of the full community and a place everyone can come and have fun,” Shoker said. “I think it gives a chance for the student body to really meet each other.”
Hatcher is not so sure.
“I think that there are a lot of people on campus that won’t really notice that Cellar Bar is gone because, again, it’s not really a hub for everybody, it’s a hub for certain kinds of students and certain kinds of people,” Hatcher said.
But to those people who did know and love Cellar, it meant a lot.
“I just don’t know if it will be that same cultural community hub that Cellar Bar had,” said Hatcher.
The bar will continue to host private events and be a safe space for all communities. Bar 1868 will be continuing Cellar’s tradition of hosting monthly drag shows this semester starting Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 10 p.m.
Although there is a wider mix of people at Bar 1868 than were at Cellar Bar, Clark still thinks that the black community in Oxford will find home at the rebranded bar.
“I think they still consider it to be kind of like their place,” said Clark. “However, Lee Ann wants it to be a spot that doesn’t belong to one group of people.”