Riley’s upsets Sup Dogs as America’s top college bar

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Alex Martin

Riley’s Bar, located on 702 W. Fifth St. in Chico, Calif. Photo by Alex Martin

Thirty-four years after Playboy crowned Chico State America’s top party school, Riley’s Bar and Grill has rekindled those sentiments after winning the Barstool Sports best college bar challenge on April 2.

On Friday, Riley’s was voted the nation’s best college bar in a tournament run by Barstool Sports. The competition began with over 120 college bars, and Riley’s made its way to No. 1, thanks to passionate support from the Chico community and even some celebrities.

In the final round Riley’s faced off with Sup Dogs, a bar representing East Carolina University that had won the tournament in 2019 and 2020. Although Sup Dogs pushed hard to three-peat, it fell just short.

Chico native Aaron Rodgers and celebrity chef Guy Fieri, who grew up in Ferndale, vouched for Riley’s on Twitter. 

Reporter Alex Martin went down to take pictures of Riley’s on April 2 around 10 p.m. Upon arrival, he found four or five police cars were sitting across the street with lights flashing. Chico Police arrested a 23-year-old man at Riley’s at 9:37 p.m. for “disorderly conduct-alcohol,” just hours after the winners were announced on social media.

Police cars sit across the street from Riley’s Bar in Chico, Calif on April 2. Photo by Alex Martin

Founded in 1986, Riley’s has become well-known as the go-to college bar for many Chico State students. 

The owners are active in the community. Chico resident Ty Polosky said owner Kevin Riley coached his junior varsity football team.

“He’s a really great guy and he’s had a positive impact on my life,” Polosky said. “I wanted to support in any way I could.”

Cal Poly student Luke Bartell voted for Riley’s because of its popularity among Chico State students.

“Honestly I’ve never been to Riley’s,” Bartell said. “I’ve got a lot of homies in Chico though, and all of them were telling me to vote so I did it!”

It remains to be seen whether the publicity will encourage students, specifically transfers, to come to Chico State and get the authentic Riley’s experience.

“I don’t know if it will affect incoming freshmen, since many are underage and can’t drink and enjoy the Riley’s experience,” Chico State senior Casey Wallen said. “I do think it may influence transfer students. Finding a college town that has a outgoing nightlife is an important part of the true ‘college experience.’”

Students can now purchase a Riley’s championship shirt in support of the bar’s contest win. . 

“I was thinking about getting a championship shirt,” Wallen said. “A group of my friends and I had initially gotten one for the Final Four, since it also counted toward votes, and I’m considering the championship one to go with it.”

Editor’s Note: Kevin Riley and Barstool Sports did not return The Orion’s repeated attempts for comment.

Alex Martin and Connor McPherson can be reached at [email protected] or @alexmartinjour and @theGOATMcphers1 on Twitter.