To the Mine: Local bar unites ‘daytimers’ and students


Lexi Loya

The Salt Mine offers many choices of beverages, including one of the main favorites, Bud Light. Image by Lexi Loya.

Baldwin City is home to college students, professors, commuters, blue-collar workers and one particularly popular drinking establishment. The Salt Mine at 301 Ames Street is a small haven where students and townspeople unite to consume alcohol, play pool and act as disc jockeys for the night.

“It is a safe place to go and drink,” senior Luke Miltz said. “A lot of times at big schools students don’t have the same experience at their bars.”

Senior Michaela Jamison also praised the unique environment the Mine offers for students and full-time Baldwin City residents.

“My favorite thing is how the students and townies end up knowing each other,” Jamison said.

The main bartender at the Mine is 2006 Baker alumnus McCoy Nelson. He returned to Baldwin City after working for Fox News and the History Channel in Oklahoma City, and he now enjoys the variety of patrons who visit the Mine.

McCoy Nelson, the main bartender at the Salt Mine, graduated from Baker in 2006. Image by Chad Phillips.
Chad Phillips
McCoy Nelson, the main bartender at the Salt Mine, graduated from Baker in 2006. Image by Chad Phillips.

“I’ve met the best people of my life,” Nelson said.

Besides offering a mix of people, the Mine also offers unusual mixed drinks. Some of the better-known concoctions include Gorilla Farts, which are usually taken to celebrate a 21st birthday; the Tapeworm, which is made with mayo, Tabasco and tequila; and the Lunchbox, consisting of beer, amaretto and orange juice.

Nelson said the most popular drinks among students are any cheap beers for the men and vodka cranberries or vodka sodas for the women.

Nelson dislikes the term “townies” and prefers to refer to townspeople as “daytimers.” He said the most popular options for daytimers are whiskey and beer for the men, while women prefer cranberry vodkas or light beers.

Jamison also said that she mostly sees male students with beer pitchers and female students with vodka sodas of some sort.

McCoy said the main difference between daytimers and students is their budget. Most daytimers come to relax and have more money to spend. Students are there to party but on a budget.

“I love the mixture, though,” he said. “For being the same, it is always different.”

Most Baldwin City residents seem to enjoy nights when students are also at the bar. Miltz recalled a particular conversation with a Baker alumnae named Natasha.

“I heard her story of paying her way though college as a nontraditional student with children and working several jobs,” Miltz recalled. “She said it was cool talking to me because she didn’t get the typical college student experience, but hearing about my experience makes her proud to be a graduate of Baker.”

Jamison’s favorite Mine memory was playing a game of pool against bartender Ali Gascoigne.

“A crowd of people started watching and got really into it,” Jamison said. “Ali beat me with a behind-the-back shot, and the crowd went wild.”

Although Nelson doesn’t like stereotyping his bar’s patrons, he does have stereotypes related to drinks. He said that White Russians, a mixture of vodka, coffee liqueur and milk, are the choice for customers who recently watched The Big Lebowski.

He said patrons who order an Old Fashioned, which is time-consuming to make, “either watch Madmen or are trying too hard for the Mine.”

Another time-consuming creation is a Bloody Mary, which he makes fresh.

“The Bloody Mary is a perfect daytime/morning drink, but there’s nothing worse than someone ordering this at 12 on a busy Saturday night,” he said.

Nelson also discussed a beverage called Liquid Marijuana.

“People think they are getting [messed] up because it sounds like a strong drink, but it’s not,” he said. “So you smoked in high school, cool…”

Not many people outside of Baldwin City are familiar with a drink called a Gorilla Fart, and not many bars feature music that alternates between ghetto rap and country. That’s what makes the Mine such a local icon.