BY EMMA MARTENS
Los Alamos is not a town known for its animated nightlife. Not unlike the 1940s duplexes that decorate North Community (where I grew up), the town has a tendency to feel a little tired. Now, I am not here to criticize the comfort of routine, nor do I claim to have the overarching solution, but I am here to ask, what happened to the town of innovation?
A once secretive place on the forefront of creation, modern day Los Alamos yearns for something new. And no, I am not suggesting we build another roundabout.
Invoking Oppenheimer’s belief that, “The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet,” Trip Haynes, Bella Saeger and I asked the groundbreaking and yet beautifully simple question: could we hit every bar in town in one night?
Thus, the second most innovative event in the history of Los Alamos was born: The LA Bar Crawl.
Since the initial crawl in January 2019, there have been several renditions, each different from the last. As some businesses closed, others opened, providing new stops where participants were given the opportunity to smash a beer or two. “I guess it was [created] out of unrelenting boredom,” said Haynes, one of the co-founders of the crawl. “That and the passion I have for putting beer in my body.”
With no venue in town attempting to command the market on New Year’s Eve, the crawl was reprised; like a phoenix from the ashes, it returned more vibrant than ever before. A formal itinerary was distributed, amended upon learning of various bar closures, and distributed again.
As always, the crawl began at the social centrifuge of town: Smith’s Marketplace. Nestled behind the produce and cheese departments, the small tasting bar is perhaps the event’s most polarizing location. While some find drinking in the store to be a social lowpoint, no other stop dares crawlers to ask, “Do I need to pick up any groceries while I’m out?”
From there, the pilgrimage begins. Participants set out on the arduous 213-foot journey to Pajarito Brewpub and Grill. At this point, the group had grown 14 strong. First-time crawler Jeff Lloyd remarked on the size of the group compared to the others dining in the restaurant, “If it weren’t for us, this place would be practically empty!” Accompanied by fellow long-time Los Alamos resident and wife, Jane Lloyd, the two joked about the demographics of the crawl.
“You guys are all kinda the same age and we’re not,” said Jane Lloyd. But when asked if she would crawl again exclaimed, “Yes! Los Alamos can be kinda lame and this is a great excuse to get out. If it weren’t for this I’d be home watching football.”
After a cocktail or beer (or maybe both), the crew set out again for the long walk to Bathtub Row Brewing.
I would like to insert a note here: On the initial crawl, the next stop was Unquarked, but if you’re at all familiar with the Los Alamos bar scene, you would know that they were ALLEGEDLY crowded out of town – a devastating blow as mid-crawl samosas were a real treat. On subsequent crawls, Boese and The Long Pour would have been stops; however, both closed for the holiday. In their defense, it wouldn’t be an authentic Los Alamos experience without at least one-third of businesses closing long before the night was over.
The heart of town, the Tub, was our penultimate stop. Given the growing gaggle of folks on the crawl, we sat on the patio and rang in the East Coast new year surrounding the fire. With many a former choir kid in tow, choir teacher Jason Rutledge stepped outside to provide the group with the traditional NYE party blowers. People talk about the pairing of fine wine and cheese, but there is truly no union like noise makers and inebriation.
With midnight imminent, the group set out on foot for the final leg of the journey. There seemed no place more fitting to ring in the new year than the only full bar open at that hour: the local VFW. The crew walked in as karaoke drifted in from the back room, barely audible over the sound of billiard balls clattering into one another. A final drink (or two) and we had completed our quest.
Finally, it was time. 3… 2… 1… Happy New Year! Then it was over – just as quickly as it had started, another bar crawl came to a close.
In this, “A drinking town with a science problem,” the iimportance of the crawl is not lost on its founders. “It’s not about the beers,” said Haynes. “Well, it kinda is, but more than that it’s about the friends we made along the way, or something like that.”
Nothing will ever compare to the first crawl on that cold January night in 2019, but with each subsequent crawl, we’ve grown as friends and as people. Countless laughs and stories were shared and the lore of the crawl has only deepened.
Perhaps this is just a story about a group of people walking around drinking, but what if there’s more to it than that? To me, the crawl is a reminder that even in a small, quiet town, the only limit to creativity is ourselves. In that regard, I guess you could say that the bar crawl is an allegory for how to live life. If nothing else, I hope that the crawl inspires others to seek out new experiences, no matter how silly they might be. Who knows, you might even enjoy the absurdity.
First time crawler Connor Bailey put it best, “I mean, there were only four bars, but I guess it was fun.”