Five T-shirts laying out flat each with a different logo from a campus bar on it

After toughing it out like a little meatball surrounded by ravenous wolves, one of High Street’s remaining old-school campus cool establishments is closing its doors at the end of this month after 40-plus years of history.

Mama’s Pasta and Brew owner Terry Fahy says the “handwriting was on the wall” as sterile corporate campus gorges on the properties surrounding their Pearl Alley location near 15th and High.

Fahy’s sentiment is like a skipping record, something we’ve heard over and over from old-school campus that’s felt the pressure to abandon High Street. By the way, there are no independent music stores directly across from campus anymore.

The city is widening Pearl Alley and needed four feet of their building to do so, says Fahy. Having the deed to the property and realizing how much work a rebuild would have meant, Fahy sold the building to Campus Partners, the Ohio State off-campus development arm working in tandem with private developers for two decades now to transform High Street.

“We didn’t want to go,” says Fahy. “But it was a matter of reality. They’re widening Pearl Alley and if we didn’t negotiate with Ohio State they probably would have eminent domained us. I’ve been around a long time and I’ve seen how those things go.”

Lest we forget, Campus Partners in 2015 said they intended to make Pearl Alley with its lower rents a “gritty haven” for local business as their transformation of 15th and High moves forward.

What better way to create “local grittiness” by getting rid of the handful of independent cool bars that remain?

Campus Partners says otherwise, and told us, albeit in their typical ambiguous and robotic way, that they plan to be “more flexible” with Pearl Alley.

“We intend to continue with the strategy we have been implementing at Gateway to bring more local businesses to the University District,” said Erin Prosser, director of community development for Campus Partners.

Indeed, Fahy says they tried to save Mamas. They were treated fairly and offered an address in a new building, but Fahy suggested they may not be able to afford the rising cost of rent on High Street or Pearl Alley.

What the future holds for Mamas, they don’t know yet, says Fahy. But if they do decide to move into a new building, “it will never be the same. We’re a dive bar.” And thus the slow death of old-school campus continues.

“Mamas is a family. A family that’s anywhere from their early-20s to their 50s, and they’ve been coming to Mamas for over 30 years. And that’s the biggest disappointment of Mamas closing,” says Fahy.

Campus Partners has brought us Gateway, and now a Target (please pass the vomit bag). In fact, Campus Partners threatened eminent domain, or even utilized eminent domain with help from the city, to get rid of old-school campus at 11th and High so to build Gateway.

But using bullying tactics to force out all of High Street’s coolest bars in exchange for a Target has turned campus into a soulless destination that may dissuade visitors instead of attracting them. Think of all the memories you can make perusing down a Target aisle.

Ohio State will never have a problem attracting students, but it will be the ultimate fail if years from now everyone says this about off-campus: “It’s lame and borrrinnng!” Many agree we’ve reached this point with Gateway.

Since the 1990s, Campus Partners has surgically targeted all of the great dives on High Street. Again, lest we forget, we’ve said goodbye to Bernies, Mean Mr. Mustards, Papa Joes, South Heidelberg, ect.

Yes, underage drinking is a serious problem at any college. But is targeting all the cool bars the answer? Makes us wonder if student DUIs have spiked over this time.

Campus Partners is a nonprofit and when they started in 1995 they insisted to have altruistic intentions for the locally owned bars and other independent establishments. Over 20 years later their reputation is that of a party-pooper monster. Their stated mission was and still is to make off-campus more appealing.

To whom, no one is exactly sure, but it sure looks like corporations hungry for profit.

Testimony to those who fear Campus Partners is how other independent campus bar owners who remain refuse to offer their name for publication when speaking out against them.

“People are always coming up to me and asking, ‘When is Campus Partners going to come and get you?’” said one owner. “I’ve kept my mouth shut about them because I didn’t want to get anybody pissed off. I don’t want their attention. They pretty much rule. They get whatever they want.”

Mama’s Pasta and Brew’s last night is November 30th.

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