51 Main: Opinions Sought

51 Main is on my mind, as it will soon be time to decide whether or not the College should continue to run the in-town venue or close it down.

Last year, the Budget Oversight Committee (BOC) recommended that the College close 51 Main. The primary reasons given were that, in light of the ongoing budget cuts, it was wrong for the College to fund an establishment that was not “core” to our academic mission, and it was losing money.  I accepted the BOC’s recommendation, but gave 51 Main until December of this year to show whether it could break even financially for two successive months.  If it could not, it would close.  I should mention that, as of November 1, it looks like 51 Main is very close to meeting its two month break-even requirement, and so feedback from community members on the existence and possible continuance of the establishment will be helpful as we assess our options.

Reactions to the BOC recommendation and what drove it have been the topic of many e-mails sent to me, conversations initiated by students, faculty, and staff during my office hours, and questions raised during lunches I have had with students in Proctor and Ross Dining Halls.  Whenever I discuss 51 Main I explain the history behind its founding, which is critical to understanding whatever success it has to date, and to considering whether its goals are as compelling now as they were three years ago.

The idea to open a place in town came from a student-only task force on social life, which I appointed three years ago to combat the collective student sentiment that campus social life had become sub-par: limited, predictable, “the same old same old,” dominated by social house or smaller suite parties that had at or very near their center of fun beer and alcohol.  The task force report included several recommendations, some of which we have implemented during the past two years.    More to the point, the report stated that, because of the size of our campus, federal and Vermont liquor laws, the growing difficulty of hosting parties spontaneously on campus (related to the state’s liquor laws), and the accelerating demand for more diverse social options as a result of our increasingly diverse student body, providing a place with rich and varied programming would make a huge difference to many students.  In follow-up meetings, students identified the desire and need for a place off campus that brought students and town folks together in a social setting, offered musical and other social events (poetry slams; stand-up comedians; exhibitions of students’ art work; etc.), and did not have the feel of a “College venue,” nor center predominantly on alcohol.

The idea for 51 Main sprang from these task force discussions, and when the space became available a donor made a gift to cover the start-up and operating costs for the venue for multiple years. He also funded several other proposals in the student task force report, because he was well aware of the harsh criticism by students about the limited social life on campus (he had children who had attended Middlebury).  Thus, none of the funding for 51 Main comes from the College’s operating budget, but rather is paid for from a gift that would cover 51 Main’s operating budget for four years, and is restricted to that use.

Since 51 Main opened, many have criticized its existence.  Several in the town community felt it was wrong to add competition to a downtown that was having a hard enough time attracting business.  Some countered this by noting that healthy competition would be good for townspeople and for our students alike; it would provide something new and perhaps nudge existing enterprises to introduce new and exciting programming.  Some merchants agreed and welcomed the new venue; others did not.

Based thus far on anecdotal evidence alone, opinion on campus has been divided.  Staff in general, and a good number of faculty, have been highly critical, arguing that running what they see as a nightclub is problematic, even unethical, in the face of budget cuts and reductions in staff positions through voluntary departures and attrition.  Many share the concern about the College “competing” with businesses in town. 

A number of faculty, however, some of whom have performed at 51 Main several times, view it as a unique venue and describe it as a “beacon of social life” for the town and for college students.  They point to the fact that in no other place in Middlebury do college folk and townspeople socialize as they do at 51 Main.  They also say that the kind of programming at 51 Main is special, diverse, and provides the closest thing to an urban feel one finds in Addison County.

Students seem more positive about 51 Main, but again, my information is only anecdotal and thus my desire in posting these remarks is to collect more feedback.  From what I hear, when the venue first opened, it was mostly the underrepresented groups at Middlebury—students of color, inner city, and international students—who visited 51 Main, and found it very much to their liking, just as the student task force on social life had envisioned.  But towards the end of last year, and throughout this semester, a greater portion of the student body began to frequent 51 Main.  Indeed, I have heard this fall from many parents across a broad spectrum of backgrounds that 51 Main has caught on.  Their sons and daughters claim it is an important social option for students who want more than a social house or suite party—for those who want to see, be with, and engage people from town who are not from the College, and listen to interesting bands, including student bands whose members include their college friends.  Many townspeople, too, have commented very positively on 51 Main, noting how it adds to social options in town, and how enjoyable it is to be among College students in a relaxed and new kind of social setting.

The negative voices I have heard, though I don’t know their number, are the loudest.  They convey their thoughts and say they speak for “many” in their opposition to this venture, again on ethical grounds.  Interestingly, I know many of those who criticize 51 Main are also the strongest supporters for greater diversity on our campus, and one has to wonder whether they see any connection between the presence of a 51 Main on the one hand, and the College’s need not only to matriculate diverse students, but also to provide the kind of support, including a social life, that helps a more diverse student body to thrive when they come to a place like Middlebury.

I am interested in your views of 51 Main and whether it should continue if it can break even financially.   Please identify whether you are a student, staff member, faculty member, community member, parent, or other.  Thank you.


Ron, as a Middlebury merchant and community member, I am in favor of giving 51 Main its full ration of funded years before a determination is made regarding its success or failure. Given the challenges it has faced – frightened locals and a crappy economy – I don’t think either its potential for profitability or its merits as an addition to both campus life and the greater community have had sufficient opportunity to reveal themselves.

As a staff member as well as a member of the local community my vote is to keep 51 Main. I have been there several times for both music and lunch and very much enjoyed it. Each time I have gone I have seen people of all ages which tells me that it attracts a good segment of the population and helps town and college people mingle more than other places might.
There certainly are things that might be changed to make it more profitable and to attract more people but it is a wonderful and unique spot. I would hate to lose it.

Dear Ron,

I should begin by admitting that I was initially a critic of 51 Main. As a member of the Comprehensive Fee Committee, I was fully aware of the budget cuts that would be made across campus, and felt that 51 Main would be an expensive diversion from the college’s core mission, and that improving social life should be the student’s own responsibility.

However, after attending multiple events this year at 51 Main, including several Pub Nights, an International Studies Reception, Wednesday night Dolci, and meeting visiting friends and parents for a beer, I realized that this venue offers a very unique opportunity on the Middlebury campus for the interaction of many groups. For example, last Thursday at Pub Night myself and several other ‘Super-Seniors’ played Jenga with a couple previously unknown underclassmen. For the international studies reception, 51 Main offered a more professional environment for students and faculty to interact, interactions which may have seemed out of place at The Grille. And outside of special occasions, the mid-week musical performances I have attended at 51 Main, or the ability to meet a visiting friend or relative for a drink in an upscale venue – particularly when the guest may feel uncomfortable having a Natty Light on a beer stained Atwater couch- has made me realize that the Middlebury community is benefiting in unforeseen ways from 51 Main. It has given students a venue to interact in a more upscale, professional way, which will likely become more prevalent after graduation. I think that 51 Main is adding to more than just the social life of the school, but enhancing our social development, and for this reason I believe a small budget deficient for 51 Main this year should be overlooked in order to maintain this venue for the Middlebury community.

Mike West ’09.5

As an under-21 student, I am eternally grateful for a location in town that both provides a bar and admits underage students. I can socialize with my upperclassmen friends in a public space that offers music and food. Also, MCAB-sponsored pub nights, which provide a unprecedented social experience in town, have been a huge hit and should continue.

I have a unique position in this argument as I was one of the first student employees at 51 Main. As such, I am also highly biased. But this means that I have also seen how far 51 Main has come. It began with five of us working Thursdays through Saturdays, often having to close early because no one was coming down. As we added touches – games, hard alcohol, new menus, new staff – it really started coming to life and became the venue that we wanted it to be with the atmosphere that we wanted. 51 Main is no longer an experiment or five people trying desperately to make something work. 51 Main is where college meets community, it’s a venue for art and acts that go unappreciated in the Juice Bar, and it has become an integral part to college life. Knowing what is happening down at 51 Main on any given weekend is just as important to many students as knowing what is happening on campus. Even though I’m biased, I think that 51 Main speaks for itself and now that it has been established, its absence would negatively affect Middlebury College and community.

Keep 51 Main open. 51 Main is unlike anywhere else on campus, and that is a good thing. It provides a sophisticated and adult-like atmosphere to students who are looking for a hangout other than the grille. I am underage, yet have never had a bad time there, because the atmosphere has been congenial and fun during the various events that I have attended. Also, Dolci at 51 is a very unique and enjoyable experience. In light of all the other budget cuts, keep this place around, or we might as well cut all cultural opportunities at middlebury.

Though 51 main is breaking even, how much of its revenue is it taking from the Grille? It seems that this needs to be taken into consideration when debating the establishment’s financial viability.

I’ll second Susan’s comments above as another staff member who lives in town. What I most like about 51 Main is that it really is a different social dynamic from the campus, especially when it comes to students mixing with adults, whether they’re staff, faculty, or townies. For example, in my job I help manage a handful of work-study students, and last spring when one of them wanted to discuss a sensitive work-related issue with me, they suggested an afternoon meeting at 51 Main, which was a neutral and quiet spot, not like the office where we work. I also am a staff advisor for a student organization, and we’ve held a few meetings at 51 Main, enjoying some wine and jazz along the way. If 51 Main were just another Two Brothers (ie. loud student bar) or Mr. Ups (ie. quiet townie bar) that would be one thing, but in my opinion it’s offering a unique and, more importantly, socially successful way for all kinds of Middlebury residents to interact. That, in addition to the fact that it may well meet its target goal of two break-even months, makes me think it’s worth keeping around. In fact, knowing it’s that close to its financial goal, I will be visiting 51 Main a few times over the next couple of weeks to do my part in helping them over the top.

As a staff member living with the constant anxiety of budget and staff cuts, I vote to keep it open. I was an early skeptic of 51 Main — nothing to do with budgets or in-town competition, but rather highly doubtful of a business concept that began as a “chocolate bar.”

What has evolved is remarkable and not redundant with anything else in Addison County. It’s relaxed and sophisticated, surprisingly affordable, with a great menu and varied programming. It’s an opportunity for students to see and appreciate the role that alcohol can play in a mature social setting. Perhaps most importantly, it draws students together with townspeople (including staff and faculty) in a unique social atmosphere that’s great for both.

Although I agree with the under-21 perspective posted earlier by NJSC, I think “unprecedented” was the key part of the post. 51 Main simply offers something different, and although that alone may not justify keeping it open, combined with the other advantages already mentioned, there is a strong argument for keeping it around.

Our fair town will never know how to view the college, its generosity, and its out-of-scale impact. As an alumnus and town resident, I at least try to see both sides of what the 900-lb gorilla gives to this town and region, and what those who criticize it so believe it takes and does so ungraciously.

There is no doubt that, on balance, the town and county are far richer for the college’s presence and commitment to the region. Need I recite the ways (e.g., student teachers in our schools, use of facilities, volunteerism by so many students, the Concert Series, lectures open to the public, auditing courses, huge contribution to the Town Hall Theater project, and, of course, making the second bridge in town possible after 50 years of debate, disappointment, and quite frankly, the absence of will among townspeople — thank you to the college for ending such incompetence and ineptitude).

Not so surprising that some in town were aghast and annoyed that the college would open a place to provide a kind of venue that is lacking and might help educate its students the way several posters have already mentioned. And no doubt those who have complained are the very same indviduals who count on (and take for granted) the college’s big 5 weekend events each year (Commencement, Parents’ Weekend, Homecoming, Feb Celebration, and Reunions) for 75% of the town’s business and therefore annual revenue.

As the earlier posters stated: 51 Main has been a success on many levels. What exactly are the “ethical” issues people are raising about its existence? Spending money when there are cuts elsewhere on campus? Should the Snow Bowl close since it too loses some money? Gee, probably not since most of those complaning about 51 Main like to ski, or their kids do. Should the college rescind its commitment to the new bridge because the $$ could be spent elsewhere? Probably not, since those complaining don’t like the 5-times-a-day traffic jams between College Street and Route 7N and 7S. Should it pull back on its other commitments to the town, such as its annual payment in lieu of taxes? Probably not, because those complaining about 51 Main would then have to pay much higher town taxes each year. For all those things, the college should engage town. But only on certain terms, I guess.

Keep 51 Main going. It is a breath of fresh air and brings various groups together like no other place, offers good food and good, if not predictable, entertainment, and those offended can opt out and leave more space for those who appreciate it and enjoy it.

Ron, thank you for your post and for seeking the opinions of the Middlebury community. 51 Main At The Bridge is a great venue, and rather than repeating what has said, I’ll just say that I fully agree with the comments above. I’ve enjoyed the diverse array of activities that go on at 51 Main, from jazz nights and dolci to pub night and departmental events. While implied, one benefit of 51 Main at the Bridge that hasn’t been mentioned too much is that it gets students into town. I feel a lot of students don’t go into town frequently much less interact with town residents, and having a venue that does both must be good for business in town. I’d be interested to hear more about what other merchants have to say, especially Two Bros and Ups.

In response to the concern that Middlebury should not be running an operation that doesn’t support its academic mission, why not make 51 Main at the Bridge a part of the mission. Surely it could provide a good case study for classes such as economics and business strategy. Students could see the evolution of its business model, and be charged with the task of coming up with suggestions for ways to further increase revenue and clientele. Or perhaps students could occasionally give class presentations in a more relaxed atmosphere while simultaneously displaying students’ work to the town.

I feel that 51 Main is coming into its own, and I’m sad I won’t be here after this semester to see how it grows (unless it gets shut down).

Eric Harvey ‘09.5

student musician

student musician’s avatar

Please don’t close it! I need it! As a musician it provides a much needed off classy yet laid back campus venue which our college would be destitute without. The place is essential. I don’t know what other performance space affords a comparable experience.

Student musician: what about the Grille? Center for the Arts? Chateau? Ross Fireplace lounge? Are there really no other venues to use? I love 51 Main (was there for Homecoming and only wished it was around when I was at Midd, but to say no other space offers a comparable experience is nebulous and difficult to believe! Do many student artists feel this way? Is there no way to get spaces on campus that suffice? I am saying this with the hope the space will stay open, but just wonder about your particular point.

Good luck, though!

51 main has grown to be a part of Middlebury college and the town –the bridging point– and it is necessary to keep this establishment open. Past Students have finished their careers at the College, without, really getting a feel of the spirit of the town. 51 main has changed all that, by creating a conducive environment, the students to learn a lot from the townies and vise versa. Let’s keep 51 open.


patron/student/supporter’s avatar

Once again 51 Main is in the spotlight regarding its future , which has very much been the situation since it opened. Has 51 main not already proved itself worthy of filling the niche so many people have been hoping and waiting for while going through constant scrutiny. The question is , Has 51 main been given a fair,economic chance to prove itself ?.

Has any thought been given to 51 Mains employees?

51 Main – thank you for the eclectic music, the inspiring art, the delicious crepes, and the perfect place to go to mingle and “be” with community and middlebury students. Our town of Middlebury needs this alternative venue.

51 Main has always been very inspiring to me for the music it has had to offer, as well as the excellent meals and beverages on the menu. I think the ambience created there was just breathtaking and ideal for the several performances that have taken place there. I really hope it doesn’t get closed down, and in fact can get further support to make it much more of a success than it is now.

As a junior, 51 Main has been one of the best parts of my nightlife experience at Middlebury. It has been the only place that I’ve been able to go on a Thursday or Friday where I can listen to good music, casually drink some good beers (instead of be around people at parties where all that happens is drinking games and binge drinking), and run into lots of great people that I didn’t plan to see. The coolest part about it is that so many types of people love 51 Main. We all come down to listen to some music or for Pub Night on Thursdays (that is my favorite 51 Main event — it should happen more!) and get to know each other better.

If we lost 51 Main, we would be losing a major social gathering space for students. It’s more than just a performance space, gallery, and restaurant. It’s a place to have real conversations with people.

51 Main should stay. I believe it is, in fact, core to the academic and overall mission of Middlebury College. I’ve been one of many students who have gone to study on an open couch, listen to music, and drink hot chocolate. Parents and faculty alike are also very impressed with how the establishment has provided the college with some institutional diversity and integration with the town. It is even more impressive that 51 has broken fairly even during this economic downturn, indicating that when the market does pick up (which it will and always has done), 51 will likely post profits. In short, if we lost 51 Main I think you’d be doing academics, art, dining, diversity, and the town a major disservice.

Since it opened 51 Main has become an integral space for social life at Middlebury. It has provided a much needed space where students from all classes can interact, and has become a meeting ground for students and townspeople to interact, a phenomena that was not happening on campus and but that is important for school-town relations.

51 Main provides a refreshing, casual atmosphere precisely because it is located slightly off-campus in town. This atmosphere simply cannot be recreated on the Middlebury campus and is important to maintain because of the numerous unique opportunities it presents for students, factulty, and residents of Middlebury to come together.

51 Main Street provides student with a great area to listen to local music and get off the campus. It also integrates the town and college, which doesn’t happen enough. The space is inviting to students, their parents and the community outside of Middlebury College. It would be a shame to have it close.

There really is nothing like 51 on a thursday night after a long day of work. It’s a place where I feel like I can safely gather with my friends, drink hot coco and enjoy good music. It’s one of the most incredible escapes in a place where this rarely exists. To take such a treasure away would be a real tragedy.

The students of Middlebury are doing their best to support 51 Main. I know for a fact that when school events are held down there such as “pub night” its always a success. It only leads me to think why doesn’t the school host more events there. It’s safe, its contained and everyone is kind and courteous to each other. Moreover, I think its utterly ridiculous that when 51 Main is having a good night if business such as on “pub night” it gets shut down by the police. We are trying to keep this place alive people!

please, please, please don’t shut 51 Main down. Don’t make our bubble smaller

51 main is an amazing compliment to the standard Middlebury college social dynamic. It would truly be shame to see it lost to budget cuts.

I have been employed by the college at 51 Main since a week after we first opened. I am not a Middlebury student, though many of my family have been and currently are, but rather a “townie”.
First of all, I want to say how amazing and gratifying it is to see all the support written above. Especially in the beginning at 51, some of us felt torn between our loyalties as a few members of the town tried to tear down what felt like ‘us’ (though we were not necessarily names that were automatically associated with 51, but rather the faces behind the bar). But during the past year and a half, I have never once questioned whether or not 51 was beneficial to either the town or campus community. It is an amazing addition to our small town. It is our ‘X factor”. And to see both students and community members voice such positive opinions is such a great experience. So, even though I am only a waitress and not an administrator: thank you for your support!
Secondly, I just wanted to emphasize how beneficial 51 has been for the town. My uncles and grandparents have often told me stories of other social venues and bars that once existed in Middlebury, and lamented their disappearance. The same uncles and grandparents have now visited 51 many times (even when I’m not working!) and commented on the vitality that it adds to Middlebury.
Additionally, many college age students who do not attend Middlebury now feel that they have a strong connection to the college, rather than simply being ‘townies’.

Keep us alive!

51 Main has become a place which provides Middlebury students a sense of community. It is a place where student artwork is showcased, student musical groups can look forward to playing, and a wonderful space to do work and breath off campus. There is no other space like 51 Main at Middlebury, and it does a lot to help different groups of students mix and appreciate each others’ talents. It is also a place where students, professors, and townspeople can mingle and appreciate each other. Losing 51 Main would be a huge loss to the Middlebury community.

Christine Downs

Christine Downs’s avatar

51 Main has really grown on me since its creation: I have used its walls for artistic displays, attended numerous student- and public-run events, and enjoyed the company of my friends there many a night. Every time I’m there its busy filled with Middlebury faculty, staff, students, and towns people. My parents love it and went there a long with a bunch of others on parents weekend. It really has become a social spot in town and taking it away would hurt more than just the Middlebury students.

Non-Student/Community Member

Non-Student/Community Member’s avatar

I really appreciate having 51 Main as an option. I’ve been in on my own for a quiet working lunch, for a quick and tasty lunch with my husband and two toddlers (who appreciated the toys and the kids’ menu) and for a coffee or glass of wine after dinner or a movie on the occasional date night with my husband. The staff is friendly, the food tasty, and the atmosphere welcoming. It’s such a unique and versatile space that seems to mean a lot to many different types of people and to suit many different purposes. I value its being part of the community. It also makes me feel a little more connected with the college and its students, which is a nice bonus. When I visit or even walk by, I have a sense of gratitude toward the institution for making the unusual arrangement possible. I’d miss it were it to close for some reason, and hope it can remain vital for years to come.

51 Main is a fantastic establishment and a true asset to the Middlebury community. It would be such a shame to see the hard work of those who endeavored to create that space to have it shut down so soon after.

As an alumnus, staff member, and town resident I would like to voice my support for 51 Main.

Before the advent of 51 Main one of the frustrating aspects of life in Middlebury was the split between worlds of students and town residents. While there have always been concerts, plays, and sporting events that bring residents and students together, these events are mostly of a passive ‘viewing’ nature. Panel discussions and community forums that might draw both groups are much less common, and shared social venues rarer still.

During the decade that I’ve lived in Middlebury, the biggest downside has been that the town often feels sleepy and at times desolate in the evenings, even while peels of laughter emanate from campus buildings. During its short lifespan 51 Main as noticeably shifted the night-life center-of-mass a bit toward the downtown. It has been wonderful to have a place now that teems with the vibrancy of students while at the same time is classy and welcoming to adults who often wouldn’t be comfortable going to some place like the Gamut Room or many other campus venues.

My favorite aspect of 51 Main is that (as I understand) it is rarely closed for private events. This openness encourages residents and tourists to consider 51 Main a comfortable place for them to enjoy regularly, rather than an exclusive student-space they are only welcome in at event-times.

Since it opened I have enjoyed many evenings at 51 Main, sometimes for performances, sometimes for food, and often just as a place to meet friends for a drink when Two Brothers gets too crowded and loud to talk. I hope that 51 Main survives and continues to fill this valuable role long into the future.

Middlebury stands to lose an integral part of it’s community if 51 Main were to close down. I extend my full support to keep the space alive.
From China

I would not be doing the work I am doing today without 51 main street. As a musician who just finished a tour in china, I would not be prepared for performance without 51 main street. To answer your questions, Marika, you’d have to be a musician to understand the differences in venues. 51 main is in town and open to the community, a musician has the ability to interface with the public in a setting that is comparable to performing spaces in major cities around the world. The grille or the other spaces you mentioned still remain inside the middlebury campus and feel detached from the community. On top of all of this, Middlebury has been getting incredible musicians coming through 51 main street that would not otherwise be looking to perform at the school. While still at middlebury, i felt 51’s biggest problem was not getting the word out on who was performing, if the students only knew what they had, theyd be fighting tooth and nail to save it. To put it simply, if i were a perspective college student, 51 main would have been the deciding factor on my matriculation. I hope this young tradition can stay alive for many years to come. It was an incredible experience coming back to middlebury last month and being able to sit in for a performance at 51, something that the grille, the concert hall or anything else just isnt conducive to. great experience that i still talk about all the time.

We spent a ton of time at 51 Main over parents weekend and I really do hope it continues to get the support it deserves. I think it is a perfect blend of town/gown on a number of levels. Frankly, our service was beyond excellent and we were there mid-morning, late afternoon AND for a nightcap over the course of three days! There was even a Chinese event going on that our HS sophomore truly enjoyed! Really great/comfortable/welcoming lounge vibe. Kudo’s to the school for supporting it and even more kudos for the town to come on this board to actively voice support. I especially like that under-21 are welcome. It’s this kind of venue that provides example over simple talk. When the school talks about the students taking responsibilities for the culture — this is a nice example of just how well this can work for EVERYONE.

As I have already suggested to the suggestions box – if 51 Main sold gift cards, I’d definitely be thinking it would be a perfect stocking stuffer!!

Last Saturday I stopped by 51 Main for a drink and something to eat. It was still fairly early, but the restaurant already had a nice mix of older townspeople and college-age young people gathered there.

It truly is finding its stride and offering a much needed neutral place where town and gown can come together. It also offers an alternative to the traditional bar scene that many are not interested in.

I have been perplexed by the oft-mentioned statement that 51 Main “competes” with downtown venues and campus venues. It DOES NOT COMPETE, IT OFFERS VARIETY. It provides something totally different than anyone else is providing. It is the variety that brings more people downtown, more people out on a Saturday night. More choices makes for a more diverse, lively, and thriving town. Keep 51 Main open.

Dear Ron,
As a parent whose child is employed at 51 Main , I am biased in supporting its continuance. For parents visiting their children, it is a pleasant off campus venue for relaxation.
That said , in these hard economic times , 51 Main should only remain open if it is self supporting and not a drain on the other educational endeavors at Middlebury.

The great thing about 51 Main is that it is not only Midd students who enjoy it. On any given afternoon you will find people from town or visitors strolling in, sitting down and relaxing. I like the space as an alternative to study as well as relax on a Thursday evening, and I believe people from Middlebury would also be sad to see it go.
However, I understand that budget cuts are a difficult, and I would prefer to see 51 Main shut for a while as opposed to loosing more dining hall staff who are an integral part of this college. Midnight breakfast on the other hand should be cut before 51 main.

To the midd parent looking for stocking stuffers , we have those gift cards/certificates you were talking about.

I am a Middlebury parent and have been to 51 Main. I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere very much and observed that many other students and adults seemed quite comfortable there. The music that night was an outstanding jazz quartet, loud enough to be heard but not past conversation level. It seemed to provide a perfect balance not found in many other venues, local or otherwise. My son works and has played music there as well and is quite positive about retaining 51 Main. I would agree based upon my experience there. I would also agree, however, that, in these hard times, it should not remain open if it cannot sustain itself and is a drain on the College. (How about adding a few more food items on the menu?)

After returning to Middlebury after a year away in the Winter of 2009, I was undoubtedly a little nervous to return to our somewhat isolated and rural college. Particularly as an upperclassman, the college social scene seems a bit overwhelming, especially when there few other social outlets. I was happy to find, however, that 51 Main was a welcome addition to the social scene here. Through Pub nights, Dolci, and musical performances, the shop has consistently attracted a decent crowd from the college community into town. It is so refreshing to have a location other than Two Brothers where we can interact and socialize… it’s even better that underclassmen are able to partake as well. Please don’t close 51 Main! It has truly added a new, dynamic dimension to the social scene at Middlebury.

51 Main is such a great place- it would be a shame to close it. It’s so nice to have a venue off-campus for performances, gatherings, and a “low-key” night out.

Every two weeks, my senior thesis group and our advisor meet at 51 Main to discuss our progress on our work over hot chocolate. Please don’t shut it down!

Please keep 51 Main open! It’s a unique place that offers a very difference scene from anywhere else on campus or in town. For older students who are a little sick of the campus party scene 51 main is a wonderful place to spend a relaxing weekend evening with friends. It is also a valued venue for many musicians. I would hate to see it close!

Dear President Liebowitz and members of the BOC, faculty, staff, and fellow students:

In my four years here at Middlebury, 51 Main is the first college-sponsored initiative that has truly achieved many of the cultural and social goals of the college. It has become a venue where students can spend time off-campus, enjoying the music of fellow-students (musicians who otherwise would not have access to such a great venue so early in their careers), and spending
time with other students, faculty members, and community members.

It is the only place where students and faculty can meet for informal and relaxed conversation – and truly form the relationships the college brags about. I encourage the faculty and staff who see 51 Main as a “nightclub” to first spend a evening there, mingling with community members, students, and colleagues over a cup of coffee or glass of wine, watching a moving one-act play, listening to the newest start-up student folk-music group, or applauding for a local high-school student who is brave enough to take a seat behind the open-mic.

Furthermore, it is a space where students and community members can both feel comfortable going for a few minutes or a few hours. As such, it can and will play a distinct role in improving and strengthening the relationship between the college and the town, a worthy cause in its own right. I just spoke, for example, with the owner of a local bed-and-breakfast who met a first-year student over dinner at 51 Main and walked away hoping to help the student get more involved in her inn.

While it is understandable that financial pressures necessitate consideration of where college money is spent, especially in non-academic areas, it would be extraordinarily unwise for the college to cut spending on 51 Main before it cuts spending on much less-healthy and less-used budgets. I would recommend, for example, that cuts be made in the several-hundred-thousand-dollar MCAB budget (Pub Nights are poorly attended – unless they take place at 51 Main, multi-thousand-dollar speakers are hit-or-miss, concerts and dances in the Bunker (which most students describe as a place to go only when sufficiently drunk) cost thousands of dollars and lead to far more risky situations than do the events at the so-called “nightclub” of 51 Main, the Commons have multi-thousand-dollar budgets spent on wasteful foam parties, poorly-attended beach parties, etc.).

I appreciate your effort to maintain 51 Main as arguably the only positive, well-attended, and healthy cafe-performance space-meeting spot-restaurant on campus.

51 Main is an incredibly important space for the college to maintain. It provides students with an alternative socializing atmosphere to that traditionally found on campus, and also allows people from the college to engage more with the town. On-campus venues such as the Juice Bar and the Grille do not fill the same niche. It would be a shame if 51 Main were closed as it is just starting.

It’s so gratifying to see the silent majority of 51 Main supporters come out in favor of keeping it alive. As a former waitress and dishwasher at 51, I have heard many, many times how important people think 51 Main is for the community. Here are the groups who seemed to really take advantage of 51 Main:
-Professionals who live in town
-Professionals who live in surrounding towns and drive to Middlebury to hang out at 51!
-Young college staff
-Professors, sometimes entire departments
-Underage students playing games and drinking virgin daiquiris and hot cocoa
-Of-age students feeling like, and acting like, adults
-Visiting family members taking out their student and the student’s friends
-Music lovers, local and visiting

And these groups aren’t isolated- students talk to faculty, townspeople talk to students, musicians talk to each other, visiting parents talk to prospective parents. 51 Main serves so many needs, and provides such important contact among groups. Please keep us alive!

The college is often viewed by Addison County residents as being a private, self contained campus. Residents don’t often see and certainly don’t mingle with the college students. To most, the campus is not a place they feel welcomed. Being the relative of a former student, I know this is not completely true but perception is 9/10’s reality. To have a neutral location where both students and residents can co-mingle is refreshing.

Being a local business person, I am often inviting other “locals” to enjoy lunch and they all have been very pleased with their experience. The waitstaff is excellent and the lunch cook does a great job; though a little more variety of “normal” food has been requested. It is my feeling that the more people who are exposed to 51 the more repeat business you will receive.

Nite life is a great mix, certain to appeal to a large variety of people. Again, simply get the word out and there will be no question that you must
Keep it open!!

I am a student employee at 51main and i cannot emphasize how great of an experience it has been for the last 2months. Not only does the place offer a great opportunity to meet new people but it also breaks the monotony of the school environment for me.
And since 51main is the only neutral space where students and locals can socialize freely, it allows the locals to share in the diversity that the college brings to Middlebury. This I believe, is instrumental in improving the image of the college by changing some of the negative views that the locals have about us.
Ron, Middlebury town is almost dead as it is, if 51main can break it even why not give it a chance to improve thigs around here?

51 main has been a very nice way for the students to connect with the Middlebury town community. For it to go would be a great shame. The venue is an important place for students to feel like they are part of the town.

As a life long resident of Addison County AND a member of the Middlebury College student body, I feel like I have a unique voice in this matter (much like Ted, above). I completely agree with all of the support above. I had the opportunity to visit 51 for the first time as a local. I attended a fundraiser for a family friend held there over the summer, and I immediately was attracted by it’s charm. The atmosphere is brilliant, and so welcoming. As an underage member of the college community, it is important to me to have a place where I can spend time with my friends, many of who are over 21. I also have close ties with more than one of the bands on campus, and I am always disappointed when they play shows in bards since I’m not allowed in to enjoy the music. 51 allows me the opportunity to be off campus, and feel like a real member of both the college and town community. When I’m watching a band perform at the grille or in a social house basement, it is an entirely different feeling to when I’m lounging at 51 Main with my diet coke enjoying my friends create music. 51 offers an opportunity to me that I frequently miss out on. I’m currently abroad, and have looked forward to my 51 nights the entire time I’ve been away. I think it’s an impeccable example of the type of town/gown relationship Middlebury and Middlebury College should have.

Though I recently graduated, I participated in early planning discussions about establishing 51 and experienced its early existence as a student musician and active participant in community arts events. I know 51 as the hub of an increasingly vibrant and “alternative” social scene–very different than what I first encountered as a first year.

51 Main should not be about ethics–it is a venture to improve the profile of the College in what I believe are positive areas: diversity, arts, community-relations. If we’re debating the value of those, let’s save that for the classroom and let this space be.

Thank you for shedding some light on the origins of 51 Main; I was especially comforted to learn the source of the venue’s funding. Before reading this blog entry, I had felt very conflicted about the venue. Some of the best arts events I’ve attended in my first two years at Middlebury have taken place there, and I’ve seen more diverse crowds there than anywhere else on campus. However, I wasn’t quite sure either of those great benefits justified the cost of a place that looks so well-put-together yet so empty most days of the week.

But if 51 Main breaks even and requires no funding beyond an anonymous donation designed specifically to keep it afloat, why get rid of it? It serves its purpose, apparently at no extra cost to students, and it provides a valuable interface with the town.

It gives us one of very few almost-every-weekend social options. If the College needs to get rid of one of these options, it should also consider eliminating the Bunker, which isn’t too different from a big social-house party.

I’d like to propose two minor but significant changes to 51 Main:

2) Do something to dampen the sounds the cash register and blenders make. Seriously. The loudness of the equipment makes people who buy food and drinks during performances seem disruptive and inconsiderate. However, performance nights are exactly when the most people show up. If spending money at 51 Main made less noise, the venue would make more money.

1) Less important to cash flow but more important to entertainment, make sure employees know how to work the sound system. A couple of poetry slams have been all but ruined by droopy microphones and barely-audible performances.


In case my enthusiasm didn’t show through, let me repeat: I was totally converted after hearing where 51 Main’s money comes from. If it stands a decent chance of breaking even, don’t shut it down!

Hello Ron,

51 Main is essential to the unique environment of Middlebury College. As a super senior Feb, I remember the outcry over the lack of social life on campus. Parties were confined to stuffy dorm rooms and sticky social houses. Of course, once in a while the grossly organized off-campus party would happen, propagating drunk driving and unwanted attention from the liquor inspector. The quick and efficient response by the administration to put the social life in order again was refreshing and reminded me why I love being at a place like Middlebury.

As a Senior Admissions Fellow, I am constantly fielding questions about the school to prospective students and their families. One of the questions that I get the most is, “Is the administration open to student ideas and initiatives?” I love answering yes to this question, often citing our pledge to be carbon neutral by 2016 and the revamping of the commons’ housing system. I would love to be able to cite the survival of 51 Main to this list.

51 Main is a place where students can mingle with professors, townspeople, and their peers in a classy and refined environment. Please consider lobbying for this great space.

I hope to see you down at 51 one of these days. I’d love to grab a beer with you and discuss this further.


David Small ‘09.5

Our son graduated from Middlebury last spring. He had the wonderful opportunity to perform at 51 Main and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We also enjoyed the atmosphere at 51 Main at many of our town/campus visits.

On one visit, our son was performing with a very diverse jazz group that included a community musician. Not only did we thoroughly enjoy the performance, the food and the atmosphere, but we were pleasantly surprised by the support of both students and community members.

As the crowd at 51 Main grew we were amazed at the diversity of the audience. It was exciting to see students and community members (in truth we couldn’t tell the difference) chatting, giving each other welcoming hugs, sharing food in a very dynamic environment. My wife and I commented that we would challenge any urban college or university that they could boast of sponsoring a more diverse and dynamic social gathering place.

We live in an increasingly complex, international and multicultural world. We applaud Middlebury’s commitment to attracting a strong international student body and we would be saddened is such as successful and diverse social enviroment as 51 Main were eliminated.

51 Main is awesome! Though I am new to Middlebury, I have enjoyed the time I have spent there. I believe it creates an unique opportunity for bringing the student body together downtown. I recently performed there and thought it was an invaluable experience!

I will be graduating from Middlebury this February and I have to say that shutting down 51 Main would be a huge loss for the social life of the college. My first three years at Midd I literally never went into town at night or during the day for that matter. Without a fake ID there was nothing for me or any other underclassmen in town. So instead I went from room to room/random party to random party hoping for a critical mass of people at an event with free beer. 51 Main has helped to alleviate the on campus weekend wandering by providing a venue for underage students and of age students to get together and listen to music and socialize. It is a wonderful venue for pub night, student bands and other campus events. 51 Main also brings students into town and away from the seclusive little hill that is the Middlebury campus during the day. Better integrating students into the surrounding community should be a goal of the college and getting students to go to town and feel comfortable there is the first step to this integration. Do not shut down 51 Main. It is the best move the school has made in improving the social scene at Midd during my four years here.

Although I’ve only been to 51 Main a few times myself, I want to emphasize a point that only a few others have made: it’s a space where people can choose not to drink, or to drink responsibly, which frankly rarely happens on campus. I am fairly social and like having fun, but the regular parties in The Bunker or SketchCullough aren’t my scene, let alone the alcohol-laden frat parties on campus (excuse me, Social House parties…)
I’ve gone to plenty of social events, particularly at Xenia, the sub-free house, but I recognize that there are those who wish to drink. For those students, it sounds like 51 Main is the perfect place to have a few beers off-campus without having to worry about driving. But it’s also a place where I didn’t feel at all awkward having a snack and good conversation with my friends. If both types of students can relax in a cozy atmosphere like 51 Main, it will provide unprecedented opportunities for social interaction that all parties can, and will want to, remember in the morning.

I sincerely hope that 51 Main is still open when I return to campus in January – based on the positive comments that others have made about how the entertainment has picked up, I plan to go there more often myself from now on.

Your commentary mentions ‘community member’ as a category for
responders. I am one of those fortunate persons a.k.a. ‘townsperson,’
having spent much of my adult life as a praiser, supporter, worker (modest, but ongoing), contributor to life in Middlebury.
51 Main offers a perfect interface for the varied communities wihin out town.
As a most positive aspect of all this, my dining and lunching experience was made perfect by creative offerings with outstanding presentations and all this
with great service. Let’s us (who ever those souls may be) keep this going.
I want to add an important request: we seniors do need handrails at the entrance, the steps are formidable, close to non-ascendable. Thanx.

Since its inception, 51 Main has met its goals of providing a social space that students and members of the community have been able to utilize. For this reason, the SGA consistently uses the space for its events–most recently presenting Prof. Thierry Warren with the Marjorie Lamberti faculty appreciation award. Both for the SGA as an organization and on a personal level for many of the members of the SGA, 51 Main has been a successful and important social space. As has been stated above, the beauty of 51 Main is that it allows for students of all ages–not just those over 21–to congregate in a similar context to other bars in town. Also, 51 Main offers a welcome change of pace from the Grille for student performances.

As a community member, I have found 51 Main to be a unique place in town. There is opportunity to see acquaintances and friends from the college and the community in an informal and inviting venue. If it can be self-sustaining, it is a valuable asset.

Since it opened, 51 Main has been a vital part of the social life at Middlebury – for students, faculty, staff and community members. I don’t think that “nightclub” is an accurate description of 51 Main at all. It is a space for relaxed socializing, listening to a wide range of musical performances (some of which inspire dancing, but not, I would say, of the kind you might find in a nightclub), and generally enjoying time away from the academic bustle of Middlebury’s campus. It is a casual space to meet with, or simply bump into, professors, members of the community, and other students. I think that shutting it down would be a very detrimental decision, and would detract considerably from the options for social interaction at Middlebury.

Allow me to add my voice to the growing chorus of those who support 51 Main. I am an alumna, spouse of an employee, and resident of Middlebury.

I love 51 Main for all of the reasons mentioned above. I will not rehash all of those, but I would like to add one of my own: 51 Main is a great place to have a leisurely dinner. At most places in town, guests are rushed through the meal. You’re lucky if you can spend a full hour dining. There have been a few occasions when my husband and I have spent 2-3 hours at 51 Main. We ate our meals slowly, ordered dessert 20-30 minutes after we were finished, lingered over glasses of wine, enjoyed conversation with each other and with friends who joined us at our table over the course of the evening, all without a waiter or waitress harassing us to hurry up and leave. Which is not to say that 51 Main is not also great for a quick meal. The point is that the guests get to set the pace of the evening, not the restaurant or the waitstaff.

I think you have a hit on your hands. In 51 Main you have managed to create an enviable combination of relaxed sophistication for us urban transplants dreaming of a place to go for some good music, conversation and food; a great social scene that appeals to my teen and college age kids and a nightspot that creates a finishing touch on a perfect time out at the Theater, movies or other local venues.

It is so important for any town wishing to create a vital core to have businesses that feed off each other. A critical mass of food, entertainment and cultural destinations is as important as retail and service businesses.

Selfishly, I would be heartbroken to lose 51 Main. As a ex – food professional,(and married to a musician) I see 51 Main as a place that has gotten it “right” on so many levels. It is a place I feel most at home in.

Regardless of ownership, college or private corporation, creating and running a successful restaurant is one of the most challenging and difficult of all businesses ventures.

In closing, I would weigh in that in this tough economic time period to be full most evenings and be close to break even is a position that most restaurants/venues would kill for.

I recently hosted a small workshop at the college. The workshop ran on Sa/Su, and on Saturday evening, we went to 51 Main for drinks/snacks and dinner.

The evening turned out to be wonderful. The space was perfect for both the mingling part of the evening and the dinner. I found that everyone relaxed over the drinks and the dinner conversation was lively and fun. The dinner was sort of a turning point in terms of the atmosphere of the workshop. While Saturday was fine, it still had a somewhat formal feel to it. After the dinner, on Sunday, the workshop had a decidedly more relaxed and jovial feel that allowed us to really enjoy the work we were doing together.

As an organizer, being able to have both parts of the evening in one venue, that was linked to the college, made things incredibly easy. Carl was very accommodating and helpful when I was planning the event, and the service during the event was great. Furthermore, the space itself was great….nicely laid out, and without an institutional feel to it. For these reasons, I believe 51 Main is an asset to the college.

Nancy Slater Cobden

Nancy Slater Cobden’s avatar

My husband and I are community members in our sixties. We patronize most, if not all, of the downtown establishments. We enjoy music and the social scene. We feel 51 Main is unique in Middlebury. The other night we saw improvisational music and poetry. When we left, my husband commented, “We’ll see that at Mr. Up’s.” Right!!

The other establishments look pretty much the same. The entertainment is pretty much the same. The food is pretty much the same. 51 Main has NOT duplicated any of that. The decor is beautiful and makes you feel you are in the city. The food is entirely different than you get other places. Certainly the music, poetry, Russian karyoke (spelling?) are all unique and would not be ever seen downtown even if 51 Main did not exist.

Please keep it going. It is now an important part of the downtown scene. We are just beginning to play Trivia there on Tuesday nights. It was dropped by its long-standing downtown host, and 51 was willing to take the chance on starting it up again.

The venue also gives Middlebury students who are not yet 21 a chance to participate without the emphasis on alcohol. Although the bar is available at 51 Main, it is not, by any measure, the main attraction.

For many reasons, a positive result for 51 Main would be in the best interests of both the college and the town. Thanks!

While 51 main is not my usual spot to hang out, I think that the college would be remiss to shut it down. It gives people a place to go, and a place to socialize. There isn’t much to do in middlebury and I think 51 provides a plethora of interesting activities that appeal to a wide variety of people. It’s also a place where the over 21 crowd can enjoy a drink while still being in the company of their under 21 friends. It also gives people an environment that is different than anything Middlebury has offered thus far. Please don’t shut 51 main down…it seems silly to keep taking away the things students want!!

51 main is a great space but publicity for its events could definitely use some help. And i agree that is one place on campus where local folks and students can enjoy trivia, food, drinks and most importantly, fun.

To catch what is presently happening at 51 Main check out go51main.com , the addison independent Arts Beat & calender of events , Vermont public radio(WDEV) ,addison County’s 92.1.For on campus , activity boards and events lists in dining halls or the activity calender on the Middlebury website.

Keep 51 main!!! it is amazing and such a great place to hang out… also they have great food.

As a recent Middlebury graduate (class of ’09) now employed by the college as a TA, I want to second every positive thing that people have said about 51 Main. There is no other space like it on campus or in town, and it does wonders for the sanity of many of Middlebury’s students, whether because they are musicians, displaced urbanites, or simply tired of ‘entertainment’ that either is alcohol or must be accompanied by alcohol. As a non-fan of binge-drinking and parties where that is the main activity, I spent many of my evenings as a student holed up in my room, which dampened a great deal of my enthusiasm for the college. I’m not antisocial; it was just hard for me to get excited about a social scene where “sketchy” is a matter-of-course, if not a point of pride (“McCullough: bringing sketchy back”?).

I don’t want to go on repeating others’ comments, so I’ll just add one more thing: 51 Main is relevant to the school’s academic mission. As some student musicians have pointed out, it provides a very necessary space without which their education would, in fact, be incomplete. This is true also for student dancers, artists, writers, poets, photographers, and performers of all spots-and-stripes who either have used or will use the space at 51 Main.

Those benefits are not limited to students in fine arts: One of our Arabic professors recently organized an “Evening of Arabic Poetry” at 51 Main. Fourth-year students read poetry in Arabic along with their translations in addition to providing brief explanations of the work and poet they were presenting. The event was extremely well-attended, and added a huge jolt of inspiration to both the fourth-year students and the first-year students who came to see them. It was an amazing opportunity for the students to share the fruits of their studies with others (members of the community were also present), and for the younger students to really get excited about where they could be in a few years. It was also the first time I’ve seen so many members of the Arabic program (faculty and students) in the same place; it actually seemed like a community of learning rather than a bunch of separate classes. Clearly, 51 Main is a huge asset to the academic life of Middlebury as well as its social life, and does wonders to bridge the gap between the two.

One of the greatest disappointments I met at Middlebury was the giant dividing line between learning and socializing. It seemed that for most of the campus, education really meant ‘homework’ and socializing really meant ‘partying by trying as hard as possible to forget about all the work you have to do’ (primarily through alcohol). I think 51 Main could be a huge part of the antidote to that situation–and has already begun to be so.

Before I applied to Middlebury, my fantasies of college life (and the brightest moments throughout my student years) were entirely focused on conversations that blended the academic and the personal. I sincerely hope that the college will recognize the value in a place that brings such fantasies a little closer to reality.

I like 51 main. please don’t close it down. look at the social scene of this town… its dry .. a college town should have things going on.. music, art, socializing etc

Dear Ron,

I’m a senior at Middlebury, and I appreciate your decision to bring the voices of the community into the debate on 51 Main.

Middlebury College has many distinct advantages over other colleges and universities in the United States: student-faculty ratio, incredible professors, and an extraordinarily rich academic life. Middlebury’s social scene, however, is ridiculously deficient.

At Middlebury, we are expected to have sophisticated, adult minds without any social venues worthy of adulthood or sophistication.

How can students be expected to be content with parties that take place in the the same places we sleep? In the same rooms where we work? And parties that are inevitably broken up by public safety because of the fire code if they are at all worth attending?

As you appear to have noticed, in order for Middlebury to maintain a competitive edge it must act to increase the range of social options avaiable to its students; 51 Main is absolutely crucial to this aim. If Middlebury moves in the opposite direction, it can expect only to lose out to its more urban competitors.

If 51 Main can break even financially, it must be kept open at all costs. It is a huge boon to town and campus life, two communities that are otherwise stringently divided.

Nick Alexander ’10

As a Middlebury student and a 51 Main employee, I am strongly in favor of keeping 51 Main open.

First, as a senior who only recently turned 21, I originally valued 51 because it was a place where I could go with friends who were 21 and wanted to be able to drink. There is a serious divide in social life based on who is or is not of age, both at bars in town and at college events where students who are legal can go into the beer garden. Middlebury has, in my opinion, always made an effort to recognize that students who are over 21 have a right to drink. 51 Main provides an enticing venue for responsible, social drinking that respects the legal drinking age and a need for all students to be able to go OUT.

Second, 51 Main provides an integral space that blends town with college. Although many of the customers are connected to the college in some way, many regulars are not. If 51 is successful, it will only continue to build a healthy relationship between the college and the town by allowing many different groups of people to intermingle.

Third, the space itself is beautiful, highly versatile, and has an optimal location. The college would be foolish to give up that space because it can, and does, accommodate so many types of events. Many departments, students, and townspeople have only just discovered 51. Even in the 6 months that I have been working there, more and more people have found all that it has to offer, including unique performers and an atmosphere that cannot be found anywhere else in the area.

Finally, the chef is amazing and the food he makes is fantastic Try the Frisco Poule Crepe for lunch, the Brazilian Shrimp Stew for dinner, and the Chocolate Mousse for dessert. You can’t go wrong.

Thank you for creating a space for this dialogue to occur.


I am in favor of keeping 51 Main open. I am also in favor of having 51 Main broaden its menu. How about having mexican food? How about a southern barbecue menu? If the menu had more choices, we’d eat there more often.

Best wishes,


President Liebowitz,

I’m a sophmore here at Midd and the host of an open mic poetry event at 51 Main called Verbal Onslaught. I’m also a member of the 51 Main Advisory board. We started last year in October, thanks to collaboration between the CCSRE Office, particularly Jennifer Herrera, and students. The event allows Middlebury students to enjoy music, experience a non-campus environment, and to create art all in the same room. At its best, 51 Main is probably the most accessible, best used space the college has to offer.

We want to be able to continue to improve 51 Main so that it remains an active, well-used venue for students and townspeople to enjoy. Closing it after a year of operation would be a misuse of space–it wouldn’t be usable by anyone for a long time. Many have seen that 51 Main is a source of positive influence and culture, now isn’t the time to give up on it, not when we’re close to seeing its full potential.

Speaking of which, if you get a chance you should drop in one day during a student run event. You’ll be able to see how Middlebury(as a whole) uses 51 Main, and participate as well I hope.



President Liebowitz,

I would also like to add my support for 51 Main staying open. I’m a very frequent patron and professional woman. For my business it’s a great place to network and as a single woman it’s a place I feel comfortable going alone, unlike most “bars.” I don’t consider 51 Main to be just a bar, I love the events it hosts. I’ve attended one-woman shows, poetry slams, art shows, and been delighted to discover amazing musical talent from all around Vermont.

As someone who has also worked in the restaurant business I know that it takes at least three years for a restaurant to turn a profit. How about serving something that one can’t get anywhere else in town? Sushi, for instance?Or how about hiring an outside “consultant” to come in and make some management suggestions or otherwise as to how the bottom line could be increased. I’m sure there are ways to tweak the current system to make things work towards a more profitable end.

I extend kudos to all the former and current employees who do a great job and are always friendly and courteous. They make me feel welcome and always acknowledge me by name.

I really love that there is such a place to go to right in Middlebury and if it closed I would be very sad and probably spend a lot more nights at home. Instead I look forward to checking out the website each week to see what events I want to attend at 51 Main. And often I go just to meet up with old friends or make new ones.

Thanks for listening and reading.

Ginger Lambert

As a faculty member who moved here from an urban center, having a place like 51 Main is a major factor in my sense of belonging here at Middlebury. Like many of my students, I was nervous about moving across the country to rural Vermont. I knew that the school was amazing, and the town incredibly quaint. But I do miss the city. In between trips to Burlington, Montreal, and other cities, 51 Main helps tide me over. In addition, I am able to interact with colleagues and students there in a way that is different from what happens on campus– the atmosphere there is often infused with a creative energy. Please keep 51 Main open!!

51 Main was the first time I felt at home at Middlebury. As a freshman from an urban city, I was struggling with being in rural Vermont. Spending time at 51 Main to watch Verbal Onslaught, listen to music, do work, or just socialize with classmates and teachers is one of my favorite things to do at this school. When I need a breath of fresh air and want to be reminded of the city, this is the space I go toPlease keep it open! Thanks.

51 Main is a powerful space for me. I am most impressed with the space it provides for Verbal Onslaught. For me it is one of the few spaces on campus in which I find a racially diverse community. It is an important and unique space. I appreciate your efforts to thoughtfully reflect on the importance of 51 Main and urge you to keep it open.

As a former Middkid, my experience of 51 main is limited. I have been to a few performances there though and got to enjoy the very beginning of it’s existence into town/campus culture. I’ve also enjoyed a few meals there while visiting friends who still attend Midd. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experiences at 51 Main. I’ve even been a little envious of the current and yet to come generations of middkids who will fully take advantage of the culture that 51 main creates.

Please keep it open.

I was also one of the early skeptics, but have reformed! The space is just too great and roomy to let go to waste; the music can be iffy but when it’s on, it’s fantastic! The acoustics could use some tweaking ( I would put some bass traps in the back upper corners to begin with). The menu is daring enough and still has a comfort level. All the employees I have met are enthusiastic and helpful. As a town resident, I am pleased with what the College has done, and consistently recommend it to friends and visitors.

It seems to be the consensus (amongst the student population at least) that in an environment like Middlebury where insulation––that “trapped in a bubble” feeling––is an all-too-familiar social issue, 51 Main offers an incredible off-campus alternative. I am a student musician and have played regularly at 51 for over a year now. From my experience, the population on campus isn’t always eager to embrace student music and while I have played/been to some very entertaining parties where college bands have the spotlight…the reception at 51 is almost always much warmer. The problem with playing locations on campus is almost always low turnout, save support from friends. 51 main’s smaller scale and urban “club” feel is a solution to this problem of size and brings out professors/townspeople who might otherwise be oblivious to some of the incredible extracurricular efforts going on within the student population. While it is true that the space could use some minor structural work to better accommodate musical performance, I’ve certainly played there enough times to know what works and what doesn’t and I am convinced that there is no better place to jam. The group that I play with is a constantly evolving collective of students and guest musicians and we would not have grown into the project that we are today without 51 main as our primary venue. We continue to rely on the diverse audience that the bar attracts to better ourselves and to keep making music as our shows are generally all-improv.

On that note, much of our exposure and privilege to independent gigs stemmed from our role as house band for the monthly Verbal Onslaught spoken word open mic program. VO offers the individual an artistic/cultural spotlight unlike any other on campus and at each session new readers take the plunge and perform their personal art in front of people they don’t know and, more importantly, that don’t know them. VO has been lucky to call 51 main home since it began last year and in a way the two have dovetailed, have grown together. The gallery wall-space at 51 is also a valuable asset, especially because it is a public space where the benefits of a changing stream of fresh eyes cannot be measured in simple pros/cons.

I know I am not the only person that has a very close connection to 51 main and it’s great to see that others are here to speak to what good has come out of the venue in only a year. I would be terribly sad to see it go, and so early for, as much as 51 is a social space for of-age students and townspeople, the artists/independently interested that have used the space as a launching pad for ideas and efforts have certainly spawned much of its renewed publicity/made efforts to spread the word around. It takes time and continued effort for projects like 51 main to succeed, and the donor who generously helped to establish the venue visibly knew that with his insistence on a four-year trial run. So, please don’t shut it down. Economic stress is not a light matter, clearly, but I think it would be rash to stop a good thing while it’s still gathering steam. In times like these, creative/social places like 51 main are essential to keeping a positive attitude. It is not taking a chance at all, because everything is there for 51 main to become a defining staple of both the college and the Middlebury community at large.

I am sincerely grateful for 51 Main St.

As without it, my middlebury college experience as a musician would not be half what it is now.

Think about what you are taking away.

and who you are taking it away from.

I promise you lives will be lightened and lifted up if you keep it open.

Mr. Liebowitz,

Keep it open. I used to think it would make sense to close 51 main. It was losing money and it didn’t seem that great. However, I have been to a bunch of events there this fall and it is great going to a place off campus where the people are concerned with something besides drinking and dancing their booties off. It definitely provides something that would be missed

As a longtime visitor of the Middlebury area, I was delighted to discover 51 Main. The atmosphere was lovely and urbane and the entertainment was engaging and unique. I also was pleasantly surprised by the great mix of customers, which included students, townspeople, instructors and tourists.
The poetry event I attended one night reminded me of similar events I have been to in San Francisco and New York. It seems to me that the opening of 51 Main as a creative venue is one of the best things to happen in Middlebury in years. Please keep 51 Main open. It is a gem.

Arabella Holzapfel

Arabella Holzapfel’s avatar

I am one who was opposed to the idea of 51 Main on principle when I first heard about it and I avoided going there for many months after it opened. I now support it, and a description of one evening that I was there will explain why.

I went to see the Chicago AfroBeat Project at 51 Main some weeks ago. During their performance, I and others who are well past college age (including one or two faculty members as well as some ‘townies’) shared the dance floor with Middlebury College students, encouraged by the great music and the open space. I repeat – we DANCED!

It has only dawned on me in the last few days that 51 Main is the only spot in Middlebury, and one of the few spots in the state, where that could happen – spontaneous dancing to live music. I no longer think that 51 Main directly competes with other restaurant/bars downtown. It fills a unique niche.

51 Main offers an important and distinct cultural outlet for our community. The urban atmosphere nourishes us, enabling a broader cultural experience without leaving the region. Many others have already articulated other reasons why 51 Main needs to remain, including the engaging entertainers, good food, and the opportunity to dance and socialize in safe space. I hope the College will remain committed to supporting 51 Main.

Please keep this vital outlet – social, musical, etc. – open. No establishment could take its place if it were to go and dropping it would leave a sizable void for students, employees, townsfolk, and downtown life in general. 51 Main is a huge “soft” asset for us all.

Mr. Liebowitz,

I am in favor of keeping 51 Main open. I attend regular meetings there for the Women’s Business Owners network and frequently go there in the evening for some great music and to unwind. I love the mix of the students and the local. 51 Main seems to fill a void that existed in the town. It is a great place to mingle and relax. The staff are doing a great job with providing a wonderful atmosphere in a that great open space. The food is excellent and I look forward to continuing to enjoy some good food, great music, wonderful,wine selection and relaxed, yet upscale atmosphere.
Compliments to Carl and the rest of the staff for working so hard to make 51 Main a central place in Middlebury’s downtown.
I hope that the college continues it support to 51 Main!

As a staff member, I support 51 Main because of its role in the Summer Language Schools hosting numerous events for the different Schools. Middlebury benefits from this enhancement of the only-on-campus-activities (co-curricular) that limit. Language Schools faculty, in particular, appreciate a non-College venue adding an attraction in teaching at the Language Schools.

Finally, I’ve found the staff working at 51 Main exemplar in their client relations when arranging events and in just hosting the casual passerby.

It works.

Sites DOT Middlebury: the Middlebury site network.