New Hampshire has long been graying. And without a major metro area that draws young adults, it can reinforce a stereotype of the state as that quiet, bucolic territory in the middle of New England.
With that in mind, one listener asked our Only in NH series: Why does Portsmouth shut down at 9 p.m.?
NHPR’s Jimmy Gutierrez stepped out for a night on the town looking for answers. It's a question often asked in some towns. But Portsmouth? Doesn't the Port City have a bustling night scene?
Editor's note: We highly recommend listening to this story.
The night out features a round of Jell-o shots, a velvet rope line with real-live young people in their "Tinder best," a pancake so magnificent you may actually swoon, and a chance encounter with a former New England Patriots player - and his Super Bowl ring.
Did we mention there'd be Jell-o shots?
By now you know: There's little we won't do in the name of social science. Or the social scene. So come along on this assignment: A couple of NHPR producers walk into a bar.
And another bar.
All to explore the nightlife. Or, some might say, the lack thereof, in the Granite State.
This story begins in earnest at The Rusty Hammer and a rendezvous with the listener who raised the question. He and his wife moved here a year ago. They were chagrinned by the options, given their work schedules. A second shift will do that.
Our journey takes us by The Press Room, the venerable live-music venue. Which is ... closed. Yes, but it's temporarily shuttered for renovations. The Daniel Street landmark has new owners and it should reopen and be rockin' again soon, as a few listeners and musicians (thank you, Mary-Erin) let us know after Word of Mouth aired over the weekend.
Our non-scientific pub crawl moves on down the road. Just a few doors down, thankfully, we find Daniel Street Tavern. The big, bald bouncer invites NHPR inside - after a wee question about our big microphone.
Its townie-bar ambiance is a welcomed oasis. The regulars are engaging, funny, and ready with a few nightlife tips. Our curious, thirsty listener soon says goodnight -- that's right, the same one who asked, "Why does Portsmouth shut down at 9 p.m.?"
The night is young. The search for more nightlife continues.
The Portsmouth Gas Light, with its upstairs night club, provides a demographic far from the AARP card-carrying set. And, as Taylor puts it, some radio magic: a chance encounter and chat with Patrick Pass, the former fullback for the Super Bowl champion Patriots (again, it's a must-listen chat above).
As the evening stretches past midnight, NHPR mingles in Market Square. Some 20-somethings kvetch about "last call" being too early. At least compared to Boston and New York. We eventually end up at The Friendly Toast to enjoy some late-night eats.
So Portsmouth, like the rest of New Hampshire, is graying. A couple of feature stories have highlighted it as a great place to visit - and retire to. There is even a self-described curmudgeon who complains (among other gripes) that the Prescott Park Arts Festival, which brings world-class music to Portsmouth, is too loud.
Yet, after a night out in Portsmouth, NHPR can confirm that there is a nightlife "there" here. With or without the heavenly pancakes.
(Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected – the original version stated that The Press Room was closed permanently. It will re-open under new management this fall.)