Tin Roof. Tinny. The Tin Bin. Whatever you call it, most students will have spent at least one evening at the only bar located a block away from campus before they graduate.
UR alumnus Kaleb Chitaphong ’19 spent so many nights there as an undergrad, he bought the place.
Chitaphong didn’t intend to own a bar after he graduated, instead hoping to follow his Political Science education through to a Ph.D., and probably find a career in academia.
But when his college haunt was facing closure last year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chitaphong decided he couldn’t let that happen.
“I grew up in this area, I went to high school right down the street, and then [UR],” he said. “So when I found out the business was closing […] I got in contact with the owner. And, initially, I didn’t even have plans to buy it — I was just curious what was going on with the business. But then we got to talking a little bit more, and things worked out and I was able to gain ownership.”
Tin Roof is located a block away from Riverview Apartments, and less than a 12-minute walk from campus. For many students living off campus, Tin Roof is closer to their house than campus. This was the case for Chitaphong’s friend, who lived across the street from the bar. Chitaphong didn’t turn 21 until the end of his senior year, but once he was of age, he quickly became a regular at Tin Roof, frequenting the bar for dinner, a drink, or just to hang out.
Chitaphong has experience in the restaurant industry from his family, several of whom own and run restaurants. But even with some background knowledge, he still had a crash course in owning a bar the hard way — learning the laws, earning his liquor license, understanding regulations — all during the pandemic. Chitaphong re-opened the restaurant under his ownership this past February, starting small.
Although loved by students, Chitaphong’s hope for Tin Roof is to attract local residents as well. “A big thing that’s important to me is having a place where everybody can come and have a good time,” he said. “I think that we’ve had success with that so far. A lot of our regulars who live around this area have gotten to know some of these college kids, and have gotten to know them by name […] and that’s really cool for me.”
While Chitaphong wants to have a bar that isn’t exclusive to just UR students, he also wants to remain close to campus life. “I want it to be a [UR] bar, in whatever way that means,” he expressed. “I’ve talked to sports teams; let’s get some jerseys hung up. I’ve got one hung up there now.” Chitaphong wants to let student groups know that if they are interested in working with Tin Roof in any way, such as holding events at Tin Roof for organizations on campus, he is ready and willing to work with them.
As COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease up, Chitaphong has plans to host more and more events. In addition to Trivia Tuesdays, and Thirsty Thursday drink specials, he recently added Karaoke Fridays. Honeydü, a band composed of RIT students, played last July 31. Chitaphong is also planning a collaboration with UR’s Standup Comedy to try out Stand-Up Wednesdays.
Although Chitaphong has big plans for the place, Tin Roof isn’t his end game, and he isn’t quite sure what his next move is. He may open up another business, or head back to school. But right now, he’s focused on the present, and on Tin Roof. Chitaphong wants Tin Roof to be the same for others as it was for him: their own spot to relax, grab some dinner, be with friends, or meet new people.
“At least for the next two to three years, we really are going to be focusing on this space to make it the best time for as many people as possible.”