Everyone knows that underage college students and fake IDs go together like beer and head. And unless you attend Oral Roberts University, there's a bar or liquor store near campus that'll turn a blind eye to the badly laminated card you bought for $150 that lists your hometown as "Las Angeles."
But imagine that the surly-looking bouncer, the one with the huge delts, actually reads your ID and discovers that it's not only a fake, but a laughably bad one. Say he slips the card into his pocket and tells you to scram. It might be time to locate some legal places to spend your evenings, at least until you can cough up 150 bucks for another counterfeit.
Contrary to what your of-age friends tell you, there is hope for those on the edge of 21. With choices ranging from cafés and billiard halls to poetry slams, and of course the clubs, you don't have to sneak around anymore to have a good time.
Like their adult brethren, 18-plus nightclubs and parties can sometimes surface and resubmerge in mere months, thanks to the moribund economy and strict drinking/drugs/cabaret-law enforcement. But for the underage sunglasses-at-night crowd, there's Friday night at the self-proclaimed biggest boîte in New York, Exit (610 West 56th Street; 212-582-8282), which offers the perfunctory thumpin' hip-hop, techno, and house music. Downtown, 19-plus Friday nights at Webster Hall (125 East 11th Street; 212-353-1600) perform pretty much the same function for the dress-to-impress (well, at least that's what the website recommends . . . ) set. For rockers, there's the place that defined punk, CBGB (315 Bowery; 212-982-4052), which still surprises aficionados of the power chord with edgy (and always 16 and up) lineups, even though its T-shirts are now as ubiquitous as I (Heart) New York. The brand-new club Deep (16 West 22nd Street; 212-229-2000) shows a lot of promise for underage devotees of the DJ. Its 18-plus Labor Day-weekend blast, Thursday, August 28, is called Depth 3 and spotlights Andy C, GQ, Shy FX, and drum'n'bass guru Goldie, among others.
If you're like some students, one velvet rope burn is all it takes to make you swear off clubbing for four years and retreat into the world of the written word. But you don't have to spend Saturday nights in the library with Wordsworth and Keats when you can hit the Bowery Poetry Club (308 Bowery; 212-614-0505) for a poetry slam, a reading, or a deep conversation about the significance of metonymy in the modern sonnet. Your forays into the poetry scene may spark an interest in talent beyond Manhattan, so check out Halcyon (227 Smith Street, Brooklyn; 718-260-WAXY), where the Wordsmith Series features performances by emerging New York poets and writers.
Physics majors will put their p = mv to work, and history majors will enjoy stepping back in time as they descend into the unyuppified New York of 20 years ago at the city's basement billiards halls. Broadway Billiard Café (10 East 21st Street; 212-388-1582) boasts 24 regulation-size tables arranged in the musty lime-green cellar underneath the über-chic Metronome Club, and prices are as low as $8 per hour for two players. The manager of Fat Cat Billiards (75 Christopher Street; 212-675-6056) laughingly, even lovingly, describes his 20-table basement den as a "dump." But it's a dump with live jazz performances and cheapo hourly rates.
No student can leave New York without logging serious café time. Nightlife-wise they're a long way from the doors of Exit, but cafés serve the purpose of injecting enough caffeine and sucrose into your system to enable you to finish that 20-page paper so you can flirt with the hottie with the latte across the room. The Hungarian Pastry Shop(1030 Amsterdam Avenue; 212-866-4230) offers spacious tables, delicious pastries, tons of cute Columbia students, and interesting eavesdropping. Downtown, Higher Grounds (700 East 9th Street; 212-358-9225) is worth the walk into Alphabet City. They make near perfect cappuccinos, and the Zen-like atmosphere will expedite writing that screenplay, so you can get back to gossiping with your friends. But don't forget to tip your barista. You never know who could be checking IDs at the next trendy club.