Our Venue Spotlight shines on The Tap in College Station, Texas this week.
Standing as one of our personal favorite bars, The Tap has a long history of Texas Country and songwriter roots amidst its walls. The original building itself was a train depot, bought out by John Whittington and friends to convert into a suds-n-buds kind of establishment. Thankfully for us, The Tap was made into a beer and bands type hangout with the addition of liquor and food some years later. According to Whittington, The Tap is running on about 23 years of service.
This venue has maintained its popularity because it’s truly for everyone at anytime. “Some people put an ‘R’ in our name and call it the ‘Trap’,” Whittington said. “You just came by for a beer and end up staying all night in your damn sweats and flops. Ten hours later you have a hangover, saying to yourself ‘I just stopped by. I wasn’t even going to stay!'” This is scarily accurate, as our very own Pickers have experienced this multiple times first-hand. We sit, have one beer, talk country and it’s closing time already!
Manager Jared McManus explains this phenomenon simply by saying it’s family. “Our customers, our employees, and our artists are all a part of a family,” McManus told TMP. “I like to think that’s why our acts stay here (sometimes too long) to keep playing.” And that’s the truth. It’s a comfortable, homey vibe that keeps people returning and staying for lengths of time.
The Tap runs on two enthralling sectors: entertainment and live bands. The bar has its regionally famous karaoke night (Mondays) and piano bar (Wednesdays) weekly, making it the top place to be during the week days. “This pays the bills, but bands are our passion,” Whittington said. “We have an average of 2-3 shows a month, not including unscheduled people we throw in, just pickin’ and not telling anybody.”
In the 90’s, Texas Country had a turn in popularity. Once a month, Jack Ingram would perform at The Tap as its first regular musician. The early 2000’s, acts like Randy Rogers would host their own days at the venue for $50 and all the liquor they could down. Rogers then brought in Wade Bowen and started the rotation of now highly established Texas musicians through The Tap. However, it wasn’t just Texas Country. Pop sensation Maroon 5 has also graced The Tap’s stage: THAT’S RIGHT, MAROON 5! Smashmouth and Bowling for Soup also joined the names of previous performers. McManus told TMP one of his favorite shows here was the Ying Yang Twins. The Tap represents all genres of music if you want to perform there. Whittington says, “if you haven’t played here, we’re gonna get you on the way up or on the way down– but we’re gonna get ya either way!”
In fact, Cross Canadian Ragweed’s first Texas performance was at The Tap. Whittington managed to cultivate a late 90’s-early 2000’s country culture. There was no honky-tonkers, no organic Texas sound around the Brazos Valley area until movement to The Tap. Widely known name Howie Edelman made his start at this bar. Working there for 15 years, he made his way to becoming Roger Creager, Cody Johnson and Randall King’s manager. The Tap even had the official decisions for these musicians made right in those same booths by the pool tables in the back.
Referring back to the family feeling, musicians have made The Tap more than just a venue. “When Parker [McCollum] shows up at 3 AM to help the girls count tips at the end of the night after he played across town, it feels good,” McManus said. “The fact that Koe Wetzel played here after he sold out a show at Billy Bob’s still blows my mind. I think it goes to show that playing at The Tap is more than just a settlement at the end of the night.” All of these successful names somehow had a major impact from visiting The Tap.
Other than Texas Country, y’all are honestly missing out on the FOOD! Whittington comes from a restaurant background, so everything is made in the kitchen from scratch. A new addition to the menu will make its debut soon, as well as updating the serving systems. Whittington told TMP in a hipster, youthful voice, “we’re about to get modern so you millennials can know we have street tacos. Oh yeahhhh, we got street tacoooooos!” My own favorite entre is The Tap’s grilled chicken salads with homemade ranch dressing that I get every. single. time. Seriously so dang good.
Whether it’s to get dollar Tap Teas at piano bar, two for one slider entres on summer Tuesdays, or go to be up close and personal with the visiting country musicians, The Tap is a magical yet homely place to be. We recommend coming in a t-shirt and with open arms for your new favorite bar family.