Bars and Clubs of OB – a Review

by on September 24, 2009 · 104 comments

in OB Shop Talk, Ocean Beach, Popular

bars south beach jim grant-sm

Photo: Jim Grant

Originally posted on September 17, 2009.

After very careful analysis, and more than a few whiskey gingers and Belgium beers, what follows is a review of the Ocean Beach bars/clubs. Pardon me if I missed one or two – a girl can only do so much drinking. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

bars - pac shores

Pacific Shores:

Ah, the black light undersea glow is almost as soothing as the drink prices (possibly the lowest in OB). The narrow bar is sort of a hipster hangout, with a pool table in the back and a well-stocked jukebox. The only downside is a nonsensical dancing ban.

Gallaghers Irish Pub:

The farmer’s market is Wednesday, but the meat market is every night at Gallagher’s, an Irish-themed bar on Newport. Grind away to reggae, but make sure to check that smooth talkers hand for a wedding band.

Sunshine Company:

Make your way up the stairs to the rooftop bar for the best Sunshine experience, night or day – no other bar in OB has anything quite like it. This place can get really packed and hot on a weekend, but is pretty mellow on weeknights. It’s attached to Livingstone’s, so you can line your belly with Mexican food before filling it with alcohol.

bars winstons empty


OB’s answer to the Casbah, Winston’s is the hands-down #1 place to go in OB to shake your bootie. This small space has hosted some great, bigger name bands – Particle and The Devil Makes Three come to mind – but also features local bands like The Electric Wasteband and Blackbirdz. Lots of reggae, but watch out, you can lose an eye if an overenthusiastic dancer whacks you with his/her dreads.

bars winstons music

South Beach Bar and Grill:

Known for their fish tacos, South Beach is a happening spot at happy hour, but tends to die down late night. The tacos are phenomenal, and the drink specials are pretty solid. Service is not always prompt, but those ladies are so busy and they have to wear those bootie-short uniforms, so you can’t be angry. Note: happy hour prices do not mean that you should tip accordingly – be kind, tip karma is good.

bar scene 2

The Blue Parrot Bar and Grill:

Oh The Blue Parrot, how I love you. Here’s why: the servers are spunky sweethearts (the Parakeets), the food is solid (brunch is my favorite, veggie quesadillas are great, and the nachos are killer), and the drinks are well priced and strong. Most importantly, however, the owners and staff know how to have fun, hosting theme nights like the crab races (every Tuesday), carpet-munching (a labor day, wheatgrass shot thing), and party buses to select concerts. Life is never boring at the Blue Parrot.

The Vine:

So The Vine is probably more restaurant than bar, and doesn’t serve hard alcohol, but I mention them because a) they are right off Newport and get a lot of bar scenester runoff, and b) they have a great happy hour. Every day from 4-6 or Tuesday’s all day, all bottles are half off. That’s bottles of wine and bottles of beer, and The Vine has some of the best beer in town (I go for Delirium alone…).

bars - pizza bar

Newport Pizza & Ale House:

Speaking of beer, I don’t think I’m going to far out on a limb by stating that Newport Pizza is the best place in San Diego to go for draft beer. They stay true to their motto, “No Crap on Tap”, and serve up delicious, delicious cold beers at reasonable prices. Their pizza is the perfect complement to their beer, so be prepared; you’ll be hankering for a slice.

The Harp:

Another Irish bar, The Harp distinguishes itself by having great music and a lively dancing scene on a sizeable dance floor. The front wall is full of open windows at night, so it never gets too hot, and acts like Help! (a Beatles cover band), and Lady Dottie and The Diamonds keep you moving.

Lucy’s Tavern:

Off the Newport scene, Lucy’s still gets bumping on the weekends, and on some weekdays (Tuesday’s is free pool). Lucy’s also opens at 6am, has shuffleboard (!), a popcorn machine (pretty nice if you’re not a germaphobe), and beautiful female bartenders that won’t laugh at you if you order hard cider. What, it’s good.

bars tilted

The Tilted Stick:

Fans laud The Tilted Stick as one of the best dive bars in OB. It definitely has a dive mentality, and actually pretty decent food, but for some reason something sketchy always happens every time I’m there. Some girl will get too drunk and start accosting people, or some guy will cheat at pool and get in a fight. I don’t know what it is, but it’s probably not the fault of the Stick.

Tiny’s Tavern:

Tiny’s is a nice little bar up Voltaire, tucked away from any OB madness. They have a little outside patio, decent food, nice employees, and a pool table. I can’t say much more, because for some reason I don’t find myself here much, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Nick’s at the Pier:

Nick’s is full of TV’s, so is great for sports watchers, but for the rest of us it’s super sensory-overload. Don’t take anyone with ADD here. There is sort of an ocean view from the bar, and it’s a great place to have a drink before piling out to a bonfire or a skinny-dip rendezvous.

Dream Street Live:

Dream Street is a music venue off of Voltaire – you can hear the metal and hard rock from down the street. It’s a decent bar, which can be on or very off depending on the band.

bars - corner

The 3rd Corner:

This wine shop/restaurant has a full bar. Like The Vine, it’s more of a restaurant than a bar, but deserves a mention because the wine bottles can be incredibly cheap (prices are retail), and they serve delicious French bistro-style food until one in the morning. The wine corkage fee is $5, but there is no fee after 11pm.

Shades Ocean Front Bistro:

Shades is ideal for sitting and drinking a beer on a weekend afternoon or during a sunset, since you can no longer drink on the beach.

bars - Tonys-sm


Tony’s is that dark-looking bar with the martini in the window. It manages to never be too packed, and it has a pretty good jukebox, as well as a pool table. This is a good place to go after a long day, when you just want to kick back in one of the booths and have a drink you’re your friends without being hassled or hit on.

bars - portugalia


Ok, I admit, I’ve only been here once. It’s interesting, a non-descript stairway up to a dark bar. I went for a hip-hop show, and the place was packed and fun – lot’s of people I had never seen before, which is weird for OB. I don’t know where they came from – PB? Downtown? Regardless, it was a great time, but it seems like fun at Portugalia could very well be dependent on what show is happening that night.

Whew, that’s a lot of bars! I’m sure there’s a few I’ve missed, as well, so feel free to add a comment reviewing your favorite OB bar. Yeah, even if it’s just your friend’s garage…

{ 104 comments… read them below or add one }

mr fresh September 17, 2009 at 1:50 pm

love, love, love the food at third corner!


Frank Gormlie September 17, 2009 at 1:51 pm

The lead photo of Tony’s is where Patty and I met for our first “un-date.”


Frank Gormlie September 17, 2009 at 1:52 pm

We fully expect Dave, Shawn, Jon and all the other heavy drinkers on this blog to weigh in with their favorite watering holes. And you guys were wonderin where Mary has been instead of all our staff meetings. Now we know. Yeah, and she kept putting us off ’cause she had to go to work. Right.


jon September 17, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Oh, I don’t drink.


Dave Gilbert September 17, 2009 at 3:00 pm

LOL, who you callin’ “heavy” Frank? Excellent work Mary, although it doesn’t sound like a whole lot of work was getting accomplished ;)

I don’t hit that many bars these days, probably because all of those years of playing in them, plus I go through periods where I like to give my liver some time off for good behavior, but I agree about the ones you covered, and yeah the new Arizona’s fun too.



lane tobias September 17, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Theres no one place for me, but because its football season I have to go ahead and applaud the bars over on Voltaire – The Tilted Stick, Lucys, and Tinys – for having ample room to watch the games while still offering the NFL Gameday package. Obviously if you’re looking for food too, Lucy’s is out (although popcorn does hit at least two of the food groups…right?) but they are all great places to watch. While Nick’s offers similar arrangements, you have to get there by 9:00 AM to snag a seat….drinking is not exactly a weekend activity I want to wake up EARLY for….

Anyway, great overview Mary. Which place has the best cocktail?


Dallas September 17, 2009 at 2:28 pm

The Harp is my favorite spot to get the party rocking. Not sure of the name of the band, although they are locals, they play traditional Gaelic (that Irish, guys) tunes but Ska and Punk them up. Nothing like songs about drinking and revolution to a punk rock sound (hey punk rock was supposed to be a revolution back before it became pop).

I like Winston’s with exception that they seem to favor only reggae music. I like reggae, don’t get me wrong. I like it alot. But I’d like to hear more than that in that great venue. Sunday’s OB-oke with Jose Sinatra is my favorite night at Winston’s. Nothing like listening to other locals get their rock-star on hosted by a character like Jose Sinatra.

One that wasn’t mentioned was the Arizona. Right next door to Winston’s, they serve great food that’s reasonably priced. I hear that they recently went through a complete renovation within the past couple years. I don’t know what they did, but I like it now. What I like best, though is going on Sundays where they have LCD flat screens at every table and can switch to whatever program you want. I can watch the Padres on the big screen behind the bar and watch NASCAR on the screen above the table at the same time. Throw in a turkey burger, appetizer platter, and a domestic pitcher for under $20 and its all good.


jon September 17, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Dallas, you don’t miss the old AZ? What with the ripped up cushioned chairs, completely destroyed bathrooms, juke box that still played old records, bar fights nightly, $2 stiff-as-hell drinks, Little Joe and Mean Joe behind the bar, the whacky caricature drawings on the wall, 6am openings,….ahhhh…the good ol’ days. It was called the Arizona Cafe, but there was no food, and even if there was you would NEVER eat there. That place was the dive to end all dives, and I loved it.


Kristin C. September 18, 2009 at 11:28 am

I loved it too, Jon…. sniffle… there was a wee tear running down my face as I read your comment about the Joes and the fights and the bathrooms… sigh…


jon September 18, 2009 at 11:42 am

You know little Joe still tends bar over at Catalina Lounge some weekdays last I checked. He was my favorite bartender ever. And one heck of a bowler!


jon September 17, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Newport Pizza (aka: Hippie Pizza) now features cask night every Thursday! For those not familiar, cask conditioned ale is also known as “real ale” and is served straight from the cask without additional carbon dioxide added. It’s considered by most beer drinkers to be far superior. I’m excited for tonight!

Also, no mention of the AZ. Not that I have any problem with that since it’s not really the AZ any longer. It’s more like Applebees in OB with a juke box.

Don’t forget Winstons has a lot of special event nights too. Including Poetry night, OB Comedy, Art shows, Trivia contests, etc….Plus they’re the best place for loud, fun, danceable tunes.

All in all, great reviews Mary. We’ll have to toast a pint together if I see you out there one of these days!


Frank Gormlie September 17, 2009 at 2:37 pm

You know, somehow I thought Mary’s post would bring out the heavy bloggers. And these guys really know what they’re talking about. (Lane – I’m trying to reach you.)


Shawn Conrad September 17, 2009 at 3:13 pm

I don’t do bar or clubs, sorry.

Like buyng a hamburger in a restaurant, I find it way more enjoyable and affordable to enjoy a cold beverage at home.

My favorite bar was the old Arizona, but that is long gone. Now THAT was a bar. Scoring mushrooms during a heavy 7 AM beer buzz was pure win.

All these clubs in OB are fluff and not for me.


Frank Gormlie September 17, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Shawn, that’s a lie! You have been known to frequent Pizza Newport many times.


jon September 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Oh snap! Frank just Joe-Wilsoned Shawn! It’s an OBrag smack-down!


jon September 17, 2009 at 3:20 pm

That’s one thing we definitely agree on Shawn. Goddam I miss that place. I still do enjoy going to some of the other spots though. I like being social.


Shawn Conrad September 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm


I have not been in that place but a few times since Sammy the barmaid left over a year and a half ago. Paying for beer and pizza is not the same.


We also agree that graffiti is bad, and that I look better on camera.


Frank Gormlie September 17, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Shawn – have you thought about getting an avatar?


clubstyle_dj September 21, 2009 at 6:31 am

I second that. Sammie was the best. I had a mini crush on her, and never got a chance to follow through. I bought a lot of beer there for that reason alone. I think I bought a sober up slice since then but not much more.


bodysurferbob September 17, 2009 at 3:32 pm

nice pic by jim grant at the beginning of this post. although the camera should have been lowered so the shot is actually of the beach and parking lot as seen through the bottles themselves. that’s more like how obceans see their community. through the looking glass of a bottle.


jon September 17, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Are you suggesting he “raise the bar?”

God that was cheesy. I need a drink.


Dave Gilbert September 17, 2009 at 3:54 pm

LOL! gotta love the pun-ishment!


Molly September 17, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Okay, here’s my take:

Pac Shores – no one over 25 allowed in.

Gallaghers – a wannabe Irish pub – (how many Irish pubs can one short street handle?) I like the old Bull Frogs – you could get dirty in that place – and smoke cigs in the back.

Sunshine – wear your ear plugs – that place is soooooooo loud. Can you hear me now?

Winstons – good place to dance. But don’t wear any white – the blue light will make you look like a christmas tree.

South Beach – wonderful fish tacos – but you have to get there before 6. After that it’s also very noisy. Don’t go there for a first date – you won’t be able to hear each other.

Blue Parrot – okay food. It’s nice to eat outside. On a hot summer night, do not go inside. And make sure you check out the garden next door.

The Vine – been there only once. Good food.

Newport Pizza – smallish area to eat outside – crowded. But I hear Shawn hangs out there so I keep going back.

The Harp – been there once when they first opened up. Didn’t like the overcharged food. Since then, they’ve really made a name for themselves with the music.

Lucy’s – definitely a local’s hangout.

Tiny’s – you can smoke and drink outside in the back with your dog. Youngish crowd. Lots of locals also.

Tilted Stick – can’t get past the sexually charged name. Remember when it was Peoples long ago.

Nicks – too expensive for a simpleton like myself.

Dream Street – good place to go if your friend is in a band that plays there. Has to be a little known band, though.

3rd Corner – excellent food and reasonable prices. However, you feel like you’re eating in a warehouse.

Shades – no opinion.

Tony’s – I love Tonys. Excellent martinis. Quiet too usually although very friendly. Take a date there. And a fig.

Portugalias – interesting music scene there – haven’t quite figured it out. For its first few years, the food was …. drum roll, please …. horrible. Hopefully, it’s improved.


Dave Gilbert September 17, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I’m still trying to figure out how the folks that start drinking at Lucy’s 1st thing in the morning earn a living that allows them to do that…and how the heck do I get a job like that? xD


Brian September 18, 2009 at 8:41 am

I’ve been to Lucy’s at 6am before. Granted, it was the weekend… and I’d been up all night drinking… so, it didn’t interfere with my M-F 9ish-5ish. And, the patron I made a new friend of that morning was homeless… so, I don’ think it was interfering with his job either.


Abby September 18, 2009 at 9:46 am

It’s called working 3rd shift.

When you get off work at 6am it’s nice to have a place to unwind. I didn’t like drinking at home after work, it just feels weird throwing back bourbon while everyone else at the kitchen table is having cornflakes.


Molly September 18, 2009 at 10:03 am

Abby, LOL. I hear bourbon and cornflakes makes a good remedy for a hangover. Although granola and tequila works well too.


jon September 17, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Ah yes, I miss the ol’ Bullfrogs too. Sticky floors and all. And although I like the staff and the outside, fun environment of Blue Parrot, their food has never impressed me. I think the best all around “bar” in town is still Tony’s. IMHO….of course.


Frank Gormlie September 17, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Uh, thanks Molly, I think. This is why we didn’t ask you to do the bar review.


Suzie September 17, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Some people work the night shift. I’ve seen alot of Nurses, security people, bartenders and club owners there at sunrise. I happen to be a Vet tech at the 24 hour animal hospital and I’ve done my share of 6-7am drinking when I worked the late shift. Remember not everyone is a 9 to 5er…..and yeah tweakers too!


Skinny P September 17, 2009 at 8:57 pm

I miss Bullfrogs


Mary September 17, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Arizona! That’s the one I forgot. They have pretty good french fries. That’s about all I know, actually.


doug porter September 17, 2009 at 11:14 pm

speaking of beer… i went to a San Diego bloggers meet up tonight & met these guys:
i’m only mentioning this because they bought us all drinks. people that buy drinks need to be supported & shown love.
(and before Frank makes some snarky comment about it, I actually don’t drink. but i appreciate the thought.)


Frank Gormlie September 18, 2009 at 8:54 am

This is a snarky comment – there I did it.


Brian September 18, 2009 at 8:51 am

I met my fiancee at Sunshine Co, so that bar will always hold a special place for me. Course, I’ve got some friends who are really anti- the Sunshine/Tony’s/New AZ ownership, so I don’t invite them when I go. Oh, and I like that at Sunshine there’s lots of room to smoke *while* you drink. I’d like to kill myself twice as fast, please.

Newport Pizza & Ale rocks. If I was still single and of the mind to visit a bar or two each day, I’d probably be in there every day. And weigh 300 lbs. If you’re in there when they have Nimbus Old Monkeyshine on tap, you should get it.

The Tilted Stick is my favorite bar in OB. I’ve never had any of the drama issues there that the author does. But, I ALWAYS meet interesting characters out on the patio at night. And the staff’s pretty cool, too. And, I don’t think I’ve ever caught anything in the bathroom… despite how it looks.

Tiny’s is a great place to watch NFL football. The breakfast food is good, and sometime during the season Pipeline Porter shows up on tap. Yum, porter. Also, Tiny’s an awesome guy.

Jon’s comment about the New AZ being like Applebee’s was spot-on. I had some friends discussing getting thrown out of bars recently as someone had recently been thrown out of the New AZ. I told ’em getting thrown out of the New AZ was like being thrown out of a Chili’s. I do like their sliders, though.


Frank Gormlie September 18, 2009 at 8:58 am

May not agree with you politically, Brian, but you brought a chuckle to my morning coffee – and that’s tough! (getting thrown out of the new AZ is like getting thrown out of Chili’s.)


Pat September 18, 2009 at 9:03 am

Yesterday I noticed a notice posted for a micro brewery at the former community services building. Interesting.


Molly September 18, 2009 at 10:01 am

Pat, do you mean the OB Community Services building? the old Inbetween? Really, another bar. OMG! How many frickin bars can OB handle? Where’s the uproar? Where’s Bonnie Dumanis? How many alcoholics can one neighborhood support?


doug porter September 18, 2009 at 1:57 pm

well, we’ve gotta to do something now that the pot clinics aren’t happening!


jim g September 18, 2009 at 9:13 am

This is great reading. I just hope some of you are saving some money for a new liver !!!!! Not sure how many of you knew Jimmy Rodgers he had lots of stories like these of OB bar lifers !!!

I do have several shots of the beach thru the bottles…..maybe I will send it over…….the shot you see is the one I sent out to 30 or who moved to OB for a few years then moved ” back home” you all know the type. They drive till the interstate runs out or they run out of money or gas. They live in Ob take a job at a bar….hummmm they work till 2 go to another bar across the street and spend a 100 bucks they just earned on tips…i guess that recycling money the OB way !!! anyway I sent that picture out just to piss off the people who used to live in OB or worked at South Beach !!!!


Barry McOckener September 18, 2009 at 10:04 am

On a Tuesday night, Portugalia is hands down the place to be. There is no cover to see a ridiculous array of super-talented performers playing “open mic” (I put “open” in quotes because really the heart of the lineup is always the same bunch of excellent acts who are friends with the host), and now there’s FREE FOOD! The weekly free dish (i.e. steak & rice, seabass, grilled chicken sandwiches, etc.) is actually good, and by no means are the portions skimpy. And if you’re brave enough to venture through the kitchen out to the back patio, chances are you’ll find some cool ish going down…

They have an array of beer and wine, and rumor has it there’s a liquor license on the way…


Shawn Conrad September 18, 2009 at 10:12 am

Am I the only one that braves Cheswick’s?


jon September 18, 2009 at 10:16 am

I don’t mind Cheswicks. It’s fun to play pool there on occassion. Although I haven’t been there in a while since my leather chaps are still at the dry cleaners.


OB Joe September 18, 2009 at 11:26 am

Jon, I’m glad someone finally mentioned Cheswicks. Hmm, yes, our own little bar for wingnuts, bikers and tweakers. And locals too. I recall during a few of our OBGO peace marches the good folks at Cheswicks would hoot and holler, give the finger, and generally cast bad vibes in our direction as we paraded down Newport. Not only that, in years past, the good folks at Cheswicks voluntarily took it upon themselves to lead a campaign to bomb Libya (or whatever third world country we were having trouble with at the time). Nice place. I’m glad you enjoy it there Shawn. If they really knew who you were, you’d be run outta there on a rail.


Mike James September 18, 2009 at 11:47 am

OB Joe tell me it ain’t so. Really? Led a campaign to bomb Libya? Doesn’t sound like the Cheswick’s I went to for years? Maybe a couple of right wing bikers in the eclectic bunch, but to condemn the whole place seems a bit much.


OB Joe September 18, 2009 at 11:52 am

Mike – I’ve actually been in there and on the surface it’s okay. But I’m serious about the Libya thing and about the protests against the Iraq war. Also, during the Holiday Parade when OBGO would have a float filled with music, dancers and peace signs – as we passed Cheswicks – there it was – all that negativity. Okay so I won’t condemn the whole place. Now that I know you used to hang there.


Mike James September 18, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Thanks for the reply Joe. It’s been quite of few years since that Cheswick’s was my hang-out. I find it very sad that things have changed so much there and that you were subjected to this.


jon September 18, 2009 at 1:08 pm

I really have been to Cheswicks a number of times, and never had a negative experience. And I’m a scrawny beach bum with no tattoos who needs a haircut. I think there are going to be a few bad apples wherever you go, but the place shouldn’t be judged on them. I like the Sunshine, but can’t stand some of the PB types that think it’s Typhoon Saloon in OB. However, the staff is always friendly and I have a good time regardless. Just remember….the Libians tried to kill Doc in the first back to the future movie. Maybe they had just seen it for the first time and were pissed off at Libya while knocking back a few PBR’s….


Pat September 18, 2009 at 10:41 am

Yes ,the old inbetween building.
Jim, I knew Jimmy Rogers very well.
He and my brother Rich were very good friends.
For many years at thanksgiving they would make there rounds to friends houses as the Turkey Patrol with bottles of Wild Turkey making Snow Shoes ( a potent cocktail) for all those who cared to par-take.
After years of heavy partying and losing friends way to young, I put a “plug in the jug”
about 14 years ago. Other wise I may not be around.


lane tobias September 18, 2009 at 10:41 am

The bars on Voltaire, for the most part, are the only bars in OB that cater almost exclusively to locals…although Tony’s and Cheswick’s can probably claim the same thing on Newport. That also includes the Catalina Lounge, which is kind of on the fringe area in Pt. Loma…..

Anyway, its amazing how many comments we get on an article exclusively about drinking. Says a little something about our sleepy little beach town I think…


Frank Gormlie September 18, 2009 at 12:36 pm

… and how bored we are ….


Mike James September 18, 2009 at 11:26 am

I had my first legal beer at the Sunshine 31 years ago. I was a bartender at Tubaman’s, Shanty Hogan’s and Sapporo’s (same place, 3 different owners). I was a fill-in bartender at Cheswick’s, which was also my hang-out of choice. I spent way too much of my time and money in the bars of O.B. , I will also admit I had way too much fun.


Rob July 9, 2014 at 8:14 am

I was also a bartender at Tubaman’s and aside from Hogan and Steve castle – the owners at the time – I can remember any of the other bartenders names – although your face looks familiar. I was in the Navy at the time – living off base and bar tending at night for extra money.
I am taking a trip down memory lane and visitingOB for a long weekend – although I realize ” you can never go home again” I am looking forward it


Frank Gormlie September 18, 2009 at 11:43 am

It’s clear now, that Mary certainly hit a nerve among her fellow OBceans. We haven’t had this much interest in a post since the Blondstone/ Rock Paper Scissors controversies. No controversy here, though, just good ol’ booze.

Wellll, Mike, begging the question: where did you have your first illegal beer? Back yard? Garage? In your mobile? In the alley outside your parents’ place?

My first beer in a glass (was it legal?) was at the Long Bar in Tijuana.

Never knew you were such a bartender.


Mike James September 18, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Hey Frank, my first real legal beer was at the Long Bar in TJ too (1974). That place was great.

My first beer was Brown Derby Beer. $4.99 a case. My cousins and I stole it was from my Uncle Billy’s refrigerator, which was in his garage and only contained beer, Drank a quarter can in my Aunt Donna’s living room in the wee hours, got a slight buzz, remembered staring into the bathroom mirror waiting for some type of epiphany. I was 14.

I wasn’t much of a bartender, but I was a hell of a therapist.


Frank Gormlie September 18, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Mike – first beer in a glass, Long Bar, TJ, 1965 – I was 17.

Okay, now that you’re confessin… I used to get drunk every weekend during high school. I’d take my dad’s hard liquor bottles, pour some out for me, pour some water back in to keep the levels up. I always wondered what my dad’s friends would say when he poured them drinks. ‘Jesus, George, kinda weak, huh?’

As I got older, I’d switch gears, stand in front of OB liquor stores and ask people to buy me a 6-pack or something. Hardly anyone refused back then. Once even asked Space Man to do it for me. He did, but he kept the frickin change – the only guy who ever did that in all my years of asking.

The OB bars back then, of course, catered to a different set – “the adults” and they were all straight. Pac Shores, for instance, we considered an alcy bar – old people, alcoholics would always hang in there. Same with Tony’s. My uncle, who ran the OB Camera, would go to Tony’s for a 2 martini lunch.

Oh, the memories …..


Dave Gilbert September 19, 2009 at 12:07 pm

My 1st illegal drink was when I was but a wee lad and I took a pug from my Dad’s “Oly”…not real sure what “tumwater” is but I don’t think it helped the taste much.

1st legal drink was playing at the EM Club on North Island…probably 3.2 beer.

At least I know I’m not an alcoholic, they go to meetings! ;)


Shawn Conrad September 18, 2009 at 1:06 pm

I have been hearing rumor of Carlsbad / Solana Beach Pizza Port opening up in the Boll Weevil’s building.

The green coops in full effect and the possiblity of Pizza Port coming makes Shawn a happy boy.

You can probably find my corpse somewhere near the Wells Fargo ATM on Newport.


jim grant September 18, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Pat I have many of Jimmy things……a scrapbook of WWII stuff included……his ca drivers lic and his SS card….i saved it for his family if they ever surface …….


mr fresh September 18, 2009 at 2:01 pm

maybe you should just change the name of the blog to OB Boozerama.


Pat September 18, 2009 at 2:30 pm

I’m sure were talking about the same Jimmy Rogers .
It’s just the WWII scrapbook thing threw me off because I know he wasn’t old enough to have served in WWII.
If the family does surface I filmed his memorial.
Some of them where there, but I didn’t make much of a connection.


Shawn Conrad September 18, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Wait until I have time to start rating the medical MJ dispensaries which are AWESOME by the way.

Every week I pick a new coupon out of the reader and meet new friends!


jim grant September 18, 2009 at 6:47 pm

Pat my per e is…. please contact me.


Dave Sparling September 18, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Having been a big city drunk for around 45 years I have to envy those who kept it local in laid back OB. To be honest no one in Phoenix, Chicago, Baltimore, DC, NYC, remembers me, nor I them. Sorry I am so late marching in the KAZOO band. Happy they now let a moderate PBR drinker join a legendary group.


Brian September 19, 2009 at 11:32 am

I left behind a great regular bar in Scottsdale, AZ. I was back there a couple weeks ago and saw the owner…

“You movin’ back here?”
“I don’t wanna talk to you then. I’m down $200 a week since you left.”


Patty Jones September 21, 2009 at 8:48 pm

I laughed, thanks Brian!


Dickie September 19, 2009 at 10:33 am

Back in 1973 I worked for ABC Cab whose lot was where that outdoor coffeeplace/gift shop is in the last block of Newport. We drove 6pm to 6am and on Sunday mornings our Dispatcher, Doc, whom I hope is still around somewhere, would take us to the Arizona at opening (6am) and order us rum and Cokes and Tony the bartender would give us refills like coffee . . . and then a great morning’s sleep. ABC Cabclosed that year because they didn’t want to deal with our union . . . I don’t know if I could handle the new Arizona . . . sounds too spiffy . . .


Dickie September 19, 2009 at 10:37 am

Oh yeah, ABC Cab was right next to the old InBetween, where I also worked as a drop-in center “counselor” (remember Frank?).

My first legal drink was on my 18th birthday at the student union Rathskellar of U of Wisconsin in Madison where they served 3.2 beer to teenagers . . .


Frank Gormlie September 19, 2009 at 10:57 am

Dickie – sure – I worked there for a year, before you came on board. We have some interesting news about that building – the old Inbetween – which of course years ago was turned into a 2 story pink stucco fortress – very forbidding with ‘no loitering’ signs out front. Compare that with the philosophy of the old Inbetween. Amazing. Anyhoo, saw a notice of intent to sell alcohol on the window of the building just yesterday. Looks like it’s gonna be another bar. Again, I ask: How many bars can one block of Newport support?


Mary September 19, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Has anyone else heard the rumor about Pizza Port coming to OB? Is that true?


jon September 19, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Yep. They are supposed to be moving in to the old Boll Weevil building. You know, the one covered in trash and graffiti now? Anyway, they were there serving up beer at the Waves CD release party a couple months back at the Masonic center and their beer is really good. Not sure what the hold-up is on them moving in to that building. They leased it like 6 months ago.


Dave Gilbert September 19, 2009 at 4:08 pm

They’re working on that building but I think they really need to change the color and soon, especially being right across the street from a “green” building…I mean there’s really no reason to deliberately start out (pardon the pun) in the red.


jon September 23, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Hey Dave, I agree with you on the need to change the color, but would you also agree they need more and larger windows!? That place always seemed so dark and dreary to me. Fine for a place like Pac Shores or the VFW, but for a pizza/brewery that is near the beach???
I think that’s why no businesses seem to survive that location. The restaurants that have occupied that space in recent years try to cater to tourists who come to the beach for an experience that usually involves plenty of sunlight and salty air. Maybe they should even consider some sort of sun roof. ’cause damn, that place is dark.


Pat September 19, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Years ago when they remodeled the old in-between building they took some siding off the building and exposed an old sign saying Joes Bar Rooms for Rent $5 . I took pictures I hope I can find them.


Patty Jones September 21, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Hey Pat, we’d love to see those pictures if you find them!


Dave Gilbert September 21, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Pat, who had all those black & white slides that were shown outside of Rock, Paper, Scissors for Newport Nights back a couple of years ago? Wasn’t that you?


Danny Morales September 19, 2009 at 6:50 pm

I was dropping acid before I could legally drink so WTF! I still have fond memories of all my hallucinations though…and I was country before country was cool.


Gary Ghirardi September 21, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Wow, 73 comments must be a record for the Rag. Can see what rocks OB is not social justice issues. I remember taking Thia for a drink at Pacific Shores when she was on crutches and they asked us to leave because they did not allow people who were disabled. That was a new one on me. Especially where being disabled in a bar seemed like a likely risk. So we commented on the injustice of this policy and left.


jon September 21, 2009 at 2:49 pm

I’m pretty sure asking someone to leave a business because they’re disabled is extremely illegal. If that actually happened you should have called the police.


bodysurferbob September 21, 2009 at 3:58 pm

gary – sorry about your experience at pac shores – it is illegal. what year was that?
and by the way, he said in a non-defensive manner, OB is a social issue. it’s true that apparently this article produced a lot of comments – many of them silly from bored readers – and on the surface of it to you, someone from the outside, it may seem this is what interests us. but there’s so many issues that many of us are concerned about. this blog for example i know just did some pioneering reporting from a recent local school board meeting where local parents called for the resignation of board members who voted to ban Obama’s speech from their district kids. why don’t you do a search on this blog for other social issues – there’s plenty of them. and come on back – you too can comment on other social issues. i haven’t seen your comments on those other issues – not interested?


Brian September 22, 2009 at 8:34 am

I’ve had friends in Pac Shores on crutches before, and my girlfriend once went in in a wheelchair after knee surgery. Maybe the guy was just joshing you. Or, maybe he was a jerk who has since been fired. Or, perhaps, it was an actual policy and Pac Shores wised up. Whatever the case, they don’t disallow folks on crutches or in wheelchairs now, cause I’m certainly not important enough to receive special treatment.


jon September 22, 2009 at 9:02 am

I think they made me leave in a wheelchair once. Pretty sure I didn’t have it when I went in….


Dave Gilbert September 22, 2009 at 9:09 am

LOL, Jon you working up some material for OB Comedy night? ;)


Gary Ghirardi September 21, 2009 at 6:45 pm

It actually happened Jon though at the time it never occurred to me to call the police or that it was illegal. I figured each establishment has the right to set its own rules. I vaguely remember that they said that someone on crutches had an accident and sued the bar over it so that was the reason for the policy. Maybe they had no insurance. Surferbob, it was awhile ago now, like 1994. I remember I was bummed because I like the bar’s environment. We went at an off time, early and had the place to ourselves and I was looking forward to a cocktail and a restful moment with Thia.

I am seeing only from the outside now. I don’t think I ever wanted to live in OB but I always looked forward to go there. I lived in downtown in the old days before the rich developers discovered it and put the locals out. I had some friends in OB and liked the contrast from downtown and to visit them. I liked the sandwiches at Umbertos, RIP, and the candy store on the beach where you could still find national candy brands in individual bars. I liked that OB that was a place that could tolerate outsiders with marginal economies. I suspect that has been lost in the mix of the years of “progress.”

I remember the OB of my teenage years when it was the “Socialist Republic of Ocean Beach,” and maybe it was still possible to be a socialist in beliefs and have a place you could afford the rent on in a U.S. society before Reagan and gentrification and viral capitalism.

I could not be there to witness the call for the resignation of school board members for not letting kids hear a speech from the President of the United States talking to them about staying in school and achieving a future in a society where some parents don’t want them to hear from their own president. I think I am glad to be outside of such a country.


Frank Gormlie September 21, 2009 at 7:46 pm

Umbertos- mmmm – now they made sandwiches. Two old guys, in a bare-bones sandwich shop. It had a cooler, a table with two folding chairs; the table had one of those plastic flowered tablecloths – you get the picture? But the sandwiches were great. That’s where OB Noodle is today.

It’s true – OB had its “socialist” days. A member of the radical – populist OB Community Planning Group ran on the group’s platform as a “socialist” for the first OB Planning Board during its historic election – and won! We figured it was the first (and only?) election of a socialist in San Diego’s history. His district was the northwest corner of OB – the “war zone”.

Months down the line, unfortunately, the “socialist” felt isolated by his fellow board members – even though most of them were part of OBCPG – and eventually resigned.

Gary, you do embellish some. But there’s that infamous bumpersticker – I still see it now and then: “US out of OB”

You know, that’s a whole discussion – whether it’s best to live inside the beast and try to change it from within or live outside it and throw stones at it. Whoops – displayed my bias. Sorry.


Gary Ghirardi September 21, 2009 at 8:23 pm

No stones intended Frank, but how far has the society of the USA fallen to see this time now when, irregardless of left or right, there was no room for a standing President to be heard. Have the years mellowed your radicalism Frank? My comment is heartfelt. I live now in a very divided country, also due to the interference, culturally, if not economically, of the USA but it still has more the feel of a time in our memories when we were not just living up against am economic imperative. It is time for voices inside to be critical of what has happened in the last 30 years to the humanity of the people who call themselves citizens of the USA and challenge the status quo. It is more urgent than in the time of Viet Nam.

The beast is not going to be challenged without first owning the danger of the dreamy gentle fascism that living inside the USA imparts to its people with increased effectiveness.

Yes this is a different discussion Frank. Maybe you should start it with another article on the OB Blog and let the community you have developed here address it.


PSD September 21, 2009 at 9:35 pm

And here I thought I was Dave the drunkard….anywho, here’s one functioning alcoholic’s take:

Pac Shores: The spot for flatbillers rocking bro-dozers (pickups that sit 10″ or more above their stock height). Murderously strong drinks and great prices, but a little tight space-wise and East County hipster-ish for my taste…kind of the scene I moved to OB to avoid.

Gallagher’s: for some reason I still haven’t spent enough time here to form an opinion after 3+ years of on-and-off residency…

Sunshine – PB Bar & Grill, watered down to OB size. I gotta say I dig on Livingston’s having a taco shop take-out window inside by the bar, but the food always makes me, the girlfriend, or both of us sick. We still eat it though, and despite the excessive volume and the exceeding abundance of shithoused 22 year olds (and one guy we keep running into who just walks up to you at random and starts telling Chuck Norris jokes), we keep coming back. As Mary said up front though, it’s all about the upstairs patio where it gets semi-mellow enough to chill with your friends and where it’s insanely easy to catch the barkeep’s attention. If they didn’t shut it down early this would be a serious contender for my favorite chill spot.

Winston’s: Awesome live acts, but kind of a smallish venue for the amount of people that some of the better names draw. OB-o-kee and the infamous Jose Sinatra are what draw us in, though I’d love to catch some of the other special nights, like poetry, comedy, and trivia – all sound insanely awesome. But it’s hotter than a two dollar pistol most of the time, and with no a/c, no windows, and occasionally a couple ineffective fans it’s hard to stay indoors long. And my fat ass doesn’t need to visit the hot dog girl every 45 minutes.

South Beach: Really good food, but maybe not as stellar as some make it out to be. Nice seating, though you’ve got to be one artful dodger to score any of it. They’re always out of shark at the exact time I’m craving a shark-and-bean tostada, which has happened approximately three times in my adult life, to date. Good selections that rotate monthly on the beer clock, which starts at something like a buck a pint at 11 and goes up a quarter an hour until it caps out at like $2.75. Generally friendly, if sometimes distracted staff. Sucks to be a girl and work there, because you usually get the vibe they’re cool people but they’d rather be kick-back and chill than running around in hot pants.

Blue Parrot: Another place for good but not incredible food. The servers are always really cool, but pretty inattentive if you’re on the patio, which is the place to be. Good drink specials though, my girlfriend brought her birthday party there over Labor Day and we spent a few hours chugging $1.00 (hell yes, one forking dollar) pints of PBR. Yeah, it was still PBR, but where do you get it for a buck a pint in an area completely devoid of bros and bro hoes? It’s also the closest drinking establishment to my apartment by a couple blocks.

The Vine: Another place I have yet to visit. Half price bottles of rare-to-SD beer has me intrigued, though…

Newport Pizza & Ale: I’m a beer snob the way your French half-uncle Jacques is a wine snob. This place blows me the eff away. Huge selection of bottles, but because the taps are always changing and always intriguing I have yet to sample any. Pizza’s good too, though the oven in the middle of the bar makes it sometimes seem like an excellent place to find out what it’ll feel like if the religious right is indeed correct in their assumption of what awaits me. Be forewarned there’s no hard liquor if you’re bringing someone who can’t or won’t quaff beers equivalent to the Greek gods’ nectar.

The Harp: Rockin’ spot, fer sure. The name of the Celtic punk band that does a lot of Flogging Molly and a few Dropkick Murphys covers along with some traditional tunes escapes me at the moment, but they rock, as does a gent whose name I think is Michael that does a killer live acoustic show and sings a bunch of old Irish standards. In basically stating that the free (yeah, fuckin free) shows offered all the time completely rock my socks, I’ve also got to give props to the Stilettos, a rockabilly act that has to be seen to be believed. And huge props to the old dude who’s there virtually every night tearing up the dance floor!

Lucy’s: Like people have said, there are graveyard shifters out there, and they need a place to party after work. I salute Lucy’s for giving these early-morning heathens a place to practice their sins, and also for cocktails that rival only Pac Shores on the menacingly hangover-inducing scale.

Tilted Stick: Good if you’re into cheap, greasy, tasty fried goodness. Good for free pool. Good because they’re cool with dogs inside. Good for affordable, run-of-the-mill drafts and mixed drinks. Good for the down-home dive bar feel. Bad for some of the shady goings-on Mary mentioned in the original post. I used to find myself here with some frequency when I lived at the north end of town, not so much anymore.

Tiny’s: Solid place and solid food. Another warning to the liquor drinkers – this is a beer bar only. Haven’t been there but a time or two, so I really can’t comment.

Nick’s: As close to conventional ‘fine dining’ as you’ll find on or near Newport. Good food in the restaurant, though I’ve had members of my party get sick afterwards repeatedly and have found odds and ends like straw wrappers and plastic wrap in my food before. The bar scene is cool, but you’ve got to get there early on football weekends to avoid a packed house.

Dreamstreet: Best review I ever heard of this place was something like “Where kids from East County go to watch their friends’ metal bands.” Sadly, I grew up in El Cajon and most of the time it’s here is to hang with my friend’s metal band. Heinous cover charge for sub-par music that doesn’t even go to support the bands there, but if you show up early, or know someone who showed up early, or are in a band, or have a friend in a band performing, or know someone whose band performed there not too long ago you can get around the cover. Sucks for everyone else, the venue and sound is mediocre, as are the drinks and prices.

3rd Corner: Unfamiliar. Sorry.

Shades: Great food,smallish bar area. Better for a lunch on the open-air patio and a couple lazy drinks after than for a real bar experience. Anna pretty much nailed it on her description.

Tony’s: Never been there, but that will change very soon after all the positive comments from the folks on here.

Potugalia – a strong competitor for best food in OB, undoubtedly run by one of the coolest owner/chefs I’ve met – ever. Ever. I’ve seen some interesting live acts there, but haven’t done the bar scene much. With such a limited booze selection I’d think you’d go there more to see an act you were interested in than for a drink.

Arizona – I never got to witness the old, grimy AZ that some wax poetic about, but I probably would’ve dug it. This incarnation, not so much. Only been in a couple times, but the place was so clean and slick I felt like one of the visiting film crews had set it up, and at any moment I was waiting for some guy to run out of the kitchen, yell “Cut!” and a bunch of roadies would come in and start tearing the place down like a movie set. Seems more PB or Downtown than OB to me…

Cheswick’s: I’ve gone there to meet friends for pool a few times. Usually late when it was kinda dead, so no comment on the crowd (though the comments wouldn’t be too pleasant from my observances from outside during the prime times).

Did I miss anyone? Time to rouse my buddy Sailor Jerry to get me some company in this lame, lonely, work-induced OC seclusion…


Frank Gormlie September 22, 2009 at 7:51 am

Awesomely funny! or is it comically awesome! Patty and I had a few laughs – especially at some of the frickin details. Shows ya know what yer talkin ’bout.


jon September 22, 2009 at 9:07 am

Hey PSD, I like your reviews, but I can’t help but poke fun at you for saying, “I’m a beer snob the way your French half-uncle Jacques is a wine snob.” One paragraph after talking about chuggin’ down PBR’s at the Parrot. :) It’s cool though, I’ve been known to enjoy the best of both worlds myself. You gotta make it down to hippie pizza for the Thursday night cask. This week they’re gonna have Stone brews Self Righteous Ale, one of my personal fav’s!


PSD September 22, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Hey now! Sometimes I can afford to drink like a king, sometimes I hit the Kwik Stop for one awesome bottle to covet and a handle of rum of the quality that Boone’s would be if they made rum…and the Parrot also has decent prices on good beers, especially of the Green Flash (mmmm…Racer 5) family. Having blown my wad a couple days prior on a birthday Wii (how awesome is a girlfriend who’s actually the driving force behind acquiring a video game system?), a dollar pint happened to be calling to me like the DMV girl to Cheech in Next Movie at the moment.

Now you’re telling me there’s a Stone cask brew this Thursday? In the parlance of a thirteen year-old texting on her cell phone – OMFG!!!!!!!!!! We’re supposed to be hosting my lady’s dad for dinner then, but I know he likes pizza…


jon September 23, 2009 at 12:32 pm

My girl got us the Wii also. We didn’t leave the house for 2 months. Lot’s of fun, but I found the novelty wore off after a while. You can only play so much virtual bowling. But it’s fun. Enjoy! Try to get down there for the cask too! If the dad joins you for a pint, that’s a good sign! If he joins you for two pints, better start saving for that engagement ring…


The "Girlfriend" without a name September 23, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Hey, don’t deny it! Our fav watering hole is The Harp (not to say that other places aren’t fun), but it is where we end up 99% of the time we’re out on Newport for a night of drinking. And the hot dog stand girl by Winstons makes some pretty awesome dogs (it’s what everyone craves at 1:30am as the bar is kicking us drunkards out!!!) You forgot to mention the pizza making experience our 5 year old had at Portugalia! The owner of that place is rad! Overall, awesome writing and review, but you knew I’d say that…

The Infamous “Girlfriend”


Pat September 21, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Yes that was me and Steve Rowell who took those classic photos of OB. Steve just got his web site up and you can see them on-line. Be sure to check it out at .


jon September 21, 2009 at 10:25 pm

Awesome stuff! Steve is a really cool guy. I met him a few months ago in a class we had together. He gave me a print of his classic OB Spaceman photo since we discovered we were both from OB. Thanks for sharing this Pat.


PSD September 22, 2009 at 12:02 am

Incredible shots – thanks a million, kids like me really eat this stuff up. In the parlance of our times, you f’in rock Pat!


Dave Gilbert September 22, 2009 at 9:01 am

Thanks Pat, those are some of the best pictures anywhere! It was cool at Newport Nights because you and others were able to share the stories of these great great shots. There’s still so many places that you wonder about too, like where was Ocean Beach Bowl?


Dave Sparling September 21, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Pat–don’t know if you are speaking to this Dave. I rely need to start using the other 4 personalities on this site. Way to many Dave’s in OB.


Pat September 21, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Daves not here.
Whats up old hermit?
I’ll speak to who evers listening


Daves not here.
Whats up Old Hermit?
I’ll speak to who evers listening.
Jon those are cool photos classics!
Steve is cool we’ve become good friends.


Pat September 22, 2009 at 10:18 am

The Ocean Beach Bowl was the building our business now occupies .
1931 Bacon st it opened in 1946 and closed in 1981.
I was really bummed when it closed.
The bowling equiptment folks wouldn’t renew the lease or up grade the equiptment.
So the owner desided it was time to close it.
It is where I would go for entertainment on weekends since I wasn’t old enough to go to the bars when I first moved to OB. Later in the late 70s we had a bowling league there it was called OBARF ,find out more @


Dave Gilbert September 22, 2009 at 10:50 am

Thanks again Pat,

I kinda thought that’s where it was at but wasn’t sure. My friend Jen that works at Bone Appetit thought that the old Rock, Paper, Scissors building would make a good bowling alley and I have to agree, though I’m not sure who would have that kind of venture capital.

Cool link too!


PSD September 22, 2009 at 8:07 pm

I’ve been toying with the idea for some time now, and specifically eyeing the RPS building, but the sticking point is that in order to make the thing pencil out the cost would be excessive – maybe not quite the $6-8 a game and $12-15 a drink EVT Bowl charges downtown, but closer to that than the $2.50-3.00 game cost and $5-6 beer you’ll shell out to go roll in Kearny Mesa or El Cajon. Part of my love of bowling is that it’s cheap, the other part is that it’s something to do while getting drunk that isn’t shouting over too-loud top 40 music in a bar. Take away the cheap half and I don’t know how much I love it any more, and I don’t know if enough people would love the idea to make it a winning proposition…


jon September 23, 2009 at 12:34 pm

I’m the 100th commentor on this post! Frank, do I get some sort of prize? Or am I disqualified for also being the 98th and 99th? I admit I was rigging it.


Frank Gormlie September 23, 2009 at 3:53 pm

You don’t, Jon, but Mary the author does. We actually saw her last night at the meet – so she does exist!


john April 16, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Went by Tiny’s on Voltaire. Door was locked, sign is down. Did they move or just closed the doors because they lost the lease?


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