On the corner of Spring Garden and Forest Street, next to Yum Yum Better Ice Cream parlor, is the Greensboro Institution, Old Town Draught House. A favorite among many UNCG students for its convenient location on campus, Old Town owner, Matt Lipp, told this reporter that he too first came to discover Old Town as a college student.
“I worked here when I was in college around 1999,” Lipp said, “I started out in the kitchen here. I didn’t purchase it until around June 2006, so I worked here for about seven years. This is the first restaurant I ever worked in, and really the only restaurant I ever worked in.” The previous owners of Old Town, when he was a worker in the restaurant, said Lipp, now “own Natty Greene’s.”
Lipp, now the owner of Old Town for 12 years, noted his pride in Old Town as a college institution. “It’s the only bar and restaurant on campus in the whole UNC System. You ever been to Chapel Hill,” Lipp said, “everything is across the street. This is still private property, as is Yum Yums, but the campus has kind of come up around us.”
While many associate Old Town as a college bar, in part due to its proximity to UNCG’s campus, Lipp noted that only about “one third” of Old Town’s customers are college students. “We also deal quite a bit with faculty and graduate students,” Lipp said, “and we actually still draw pretty well from the neighborhoods on either side, College Hill, and you know, Sunset Hill. A lot of guys who work over at the physical plant also come here for lunch.”
Old Town, as a restaurant, Lipp said, has “been around since July 4, 1996.” Originally, in the early 80s’ Lipp said, Old Town was called Spring Garden Bar and Grill. “There used to be a bunch of Spring Garden Bar and Grills around,” said Lipp, “but this was the original Spring Garden Bar and Grill.”
While the name of the bar has changed, he said, little else has been done to the design of the bar in over 30 years. “I have the original plans for the bar when work on it was done, and most of it has unchanged for a long time, 30 years.” While Lipp has made a few renovations to the restaurant, “a little over a year and a half ago, we added this draft system, and paint, these tables are new, but you know,” he said, “I like to keep it simple.”
The bar’s simplicity, Lipp said, is among one of the many things that makes the bar unique. “You know the bar is always gonna stand out because of its location, being the only place on campus with full ABC permits, our Chicken Philly is unique, we sell quite a few Chicken Phillies, it’s our number one selling item. It’s not a total dive bar,” Lipp said, “you know, I think we walk the line. Your mother could come in here at 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night with a book and a glass of wine and no one is gonna bother her; at the same time, there are people doing shots of tequila and raising hell on the patio outside.”
As for potential changes to the bar in the future, Lipp shrugs at the idea, “I’d like to think my job is to keep it going the way it is and not change it too much. It’s been this way longer than before I was here, and so I like to say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”