An important part of any college town is its local restaurants. For Baldwin City, it is no different. Whether it is a place to grab drinks, a corner to study in or a location to celebrate a birthday, there are always options available to Baker students if they know where to look.
But, two restaurants have recently officially closed their doors: Jo’s Diner and The Salt Mine.
Jo’s Diner, a small restaurant that primarily served homestyle diner food, was one enjoyed by a variety of students.
“I have been to Jo’s Diner a handful of times for breakfast whenever my dad came to town and a couple times with my fraternity brothers,” Sophomore Erich Pouch said. “It kinda reminds me of a grandma’s breakfast. Every time I’ve gone, good service and good food.”
The Salt Mine, a local bar and grill, served as a popular spot for Baker students to have drinks at or play pool with their friends.
“The Mine was really easy. It was in a central location. You could walk back to your dorm room easily. You didn’t need a DD or anything,” Senior Jesse Gardner said. “I would even go there and work on homework sometimes. Mostly because I knew the people that would generally be there, and if I wanted to see them I would go down to the Mine.”
Baldwin City already had a small number of restaurants. With the disappearance of two, concern has risen about the lack of variety left to students and residents.
“Jo’s Diner, I know they have some competitors. So it’s not like breakfast is completely out the door for Baldwin City,” Pouch said. “You’ve got Homestead and some coffee shops that serve at breakfast times. And with the Mine, it’s not the only bar in town. I mean the Lodge has a bar, but it’s a motel bar. It’s not really the place you go for a ‘bar scene.’”
Furthermore, the absence of restaurants in town will not be unnoticed by both current and future Baker Wildcats.
“I feel like it will encourage students to leave town and go to restaurants in surrounding cities like Lawrence even more than usual,” Freshman Taylor Nicholson said. “I think this is unfortunate because this money could be staying in smaller businesses in town and could keep students on campus.”
Due to the fact that the only bar available to students in Baldwin City is now gone, new concerns for student safety are developing.
“If they end up going to Lawrence for more of the night life kind of entertainment there might be potential conflicts with other people because they’re a different community,” Gardner said. “Also the danger of driving and drinking. If somebody doesn’t have a DD, they’re gonna do what they need to do to get home that night.”
While there has not been a public statement regarding why the restaurants have closed down, there is some speculation that the coronavirus and subsequent lockdowns may have been a factor.
“The pandemic has impacted every facet of our lives and our eating out habits are no exception,” Nicholson said. “COVID-19 has been so hard on small businesses, like the Mine and Jo’s Diner. I just hope that as cases go down and business becomes more regular that we can stop this from happening to any of our other staple Baldwin spots.”
While many of the town’s favorite restaurants remain and the opportunity for new growth is possible, there is still a sense of loss felt by the community for all of the memories they had at the businesses that are now gone.
“I had my 21st birthday at the Mine and it was unforgettable. I met some of my best friends at the Mine, actually, that live here in Baldwin,” Gardner said. “I’m sorry for all the other students who come here and need a place in town to celebrate their 21st birthday and they just can’t.”