Like the 3B, Chiribins and the State Street Depot before it, the Nightlight follows in the legacy of Bellingham bars to shut down in their prime. Like a bad breakup, the loss of the Nightlight leaves throngs of college students feeling betrayed, desolate and in search for something to fill its place.
For me it's been a love-hate relationship with the Nightlight; long lines, a cover and expensive drinks have pushed my patience and my wallet. Yet, try as I may I can't find a better dance party in town than the Nightlight's 80s night. On the first Thursday of the quarter a line is already forming at 10 p.m., unusual for a bar that rarely is crowded before 11 p.m.
Why, then, review the bar now in its last weeks? It is out of appreciation for the many Thursday nights the Nightlight gave to Western students who danced the weeks stress out to the pulsating rhythms of 80s synthesizer machines and electric keyboards.
With its cavernous interior dimly lit, it is the first time I've really noticed the ambiance. You never appreciate what you have until it is gone. Walls of raggedly cut stones line the curved breezeway architecture. Attached rooms lead to pool tables, pinball machines, and a room full of love seats.
Sitting on one of the stools scattered sparingly around the perimeter of the dance floor, I scrutinize my surroundings. I feel like the strobes and flashing colored lights could prove hazardous for the epileptic and are a little too reminiscent of a middle school birthday party I once went to at a roller skating rink.
The cheesy light show pairs well with the denim vests, leg warmers and off-the-shoulder sweat shirts worn by occupants of the club. The 80s dance scene melds perfectly with the retro style of the fashion forward. What's old is new again and it's hard to distinguish who is dressed normally and who is in costume.
As the night progresses, people crowd the floor and adjoining stage. Shoulder to shoulder, back to sweaty back, the room is a cesspool of sticky hot bodies crammed together and pumping their fists in the air to Europe's “The Final Countdown.”
Like any traditional breakup situation the people I talk to react differently, Nightlight regular Diana Dizard is optimistic the bar will be back.
“I don't think it will stay closed very long. I heard the guys from the Royal and the Fairhaven are thinking about buying it,” Dizard said.
Western Alumni Dan Toomey is still grappling with the news, trying to make sense of the loss of a bar that is gone too soon.
“It's a damn, dirty shame,” Toomey said.
The Nightlight's last night is Jan. 26.