Management at Snug’s brings in new energy, creativity and culture

SUNY New Paltz BFA Painting student Edward Salas draws at Snug Harbor

While Snug Harbor still retains its biker-bar, pig-roasting, pool-hustling atmosphere where everyone is welcomed, it has begun to evolve into a multidimensional watering hole complete with drawing nights, bingo nights, open-mic night and the best of the local best bands performing every weekend to dancing throngs of fans or soon-to-be fans. Part of this metamorphosis is due to head bartender Dylan McManus and the creative license that the new owners of Snug’s have given him and other employees to infuse the decades-old bar with new energy, creativity and culture.
“I’ve been here for three years, and Snug’s has always been this neutral zone: a place where everyone is welcomed,” said McManus. “When the new owners took over one year ago, they encouraged us to make Snug’s more of a community-based bar.”
To that end, the bartenders, owners and employees have branched out and now offer a bingo night every Monday. “That’s now in its fourth week, and it’s really popular,” said McManus. They also have open-mic night on Tuesdays, and then drawing nights on Wednesdays, where artists or those who don’t consider themselves “artists” but like to draw can come in and get a piece of paper and let their creative juices flow.
“The drawing becomes currency,” explained McManus. “They can turn in their drawing for a free pint.” He did caution that a “few scribbles on a napkin” might not cut it; but when the New Paltz Times showed up on a random Wednesday night, the drawings that were being done on the old wooden bar stools were head and shoulders above a “few scribbles on a napkin.”
Martha Tesfamarjam was busy working on a piece while sipping on a pint and enjoying friends. “I’m friends with Dylan, and he encouraged friends and art students to come out for drawing night,” she explained. “I like the vibe of it. It’s not something you typically do at a bar, and some of the people that come are ridiculously creative. For me, it’s just relaxing. I like to work with colors and forms in a fun atmosphere, and at the end of the night, you can surprise yourself by what you’ve produced!”
All of the drawings that are turned in for pints get voted on, and Snug’s holds an art exhibit/contest for the best drawings. Those people can then have an exhibit at the bar or get license to work on an evolving mural along the wall.
Edward Salas, a senior at SUNY-New Paltz in the Fine Arts program, was busy at work drawing a three-dimensional piece. “A lot of people in the department come here on Wednesdays and enjoy drawing and getting together,” he said. “I like the venue and the ability to enjoy a pint and do some drawing that isn’t part of my college work, but just for pure enjoyment.”
Luke Roberti, who works at Snug’s and at 36 Main, was off that night and playing pool, but had nothing but laudatory things to say about the expansion of activities at Snug’s. “I feel like there are typically only a few things you can do at a bar: play pool, darts, drink…but what Dylan and the new owners have done, and some of the other bartenders, is to really try and pull more people in — whether it’s to draw, have art exhibits, fundraisers, great live music, open mic and bingo. It’s awesome.”
Rick Holland and April Warren, who were also bent over working on their drawings, concurred. Both are involved professionally in the arts through graphic design and illustration, but said that after working 9 to 5 at their day jobs, “It’s fun to come here and relax and draw and meet so many incredible artists who are painters, printmakers,” said Warren.
“We just wanted to encourage everyone to come here and have an alternative nighttime bar experience,” said McManus. “We let local artists have exhibits here; we book popular bands, but also have open-mic night, where many musicians get exposure and end up meeting other musicians and starting their own bands. There’s a little bit of everything here: bikers, pool-players, artists, musicians, poets, bohemians, tradespeople, rock climbers, locals. It’s what makes this place so unique and accepting.” ++