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Home Away From Home

Home is a four letter word that we often associate with a familiar place that lends us comfort and succor. While I have a cozy house in South Park that feels like a cushy bean bag, I also have found similar traits on a few barstools around town. This is nowhere as completely fitting as The Alibi. When I first walked through the doors here in 1997 it was the epitome of a dive bar; no windows, dark, loud, and smoke filled. It was so easy to feel like you were doing something dangerous amid people of like mindedness. Even if you hung out there in the daytime, it was nighttime inside.

Today’s Alibi has gone through many changes, yet the heartbeat is still the same. While it is obscure as to the actual history of the place, I could trace it back to 1972, when Jerry Patron bought the place and it has been The Alibi at least since then. This tavern also proudly names itself as the second oldest licensed bar in San Diego. I would like to think it has always been named as such, as it is such a fitting moniker for this type of establishment.

Freddie, bartender extraordinnaire, who has been serving me cocktails there since 2003, helped relate some of the recent histories. Sporting perhaps the most impressive beard in town, complete with wolfman like gray streaks, he is a generous and knowledgeable bloke. He helped me remember that it was in 2004 when they knocked out the walls and put in windows all across the front. At first, a bit put off by this change, I slowly grew accustomed to the alteration. No more night time darkness in the heat of day, though. Also a patio was born in back, which after the smoking ban, was an intelligent and welcome decision.

While they used to serve food, it was never truly of note. The decision to axe the kitchen in favor of a lengthy upholstered banquette was a plus. Most recently, the woman’s bathroom was updated and is now cleaner and larger, which my girlfriend says was sorely needed. The men’s bathroom grew in size a few years back and there is also a secret bathroom, maybe only known to the savviest of regulars. In 2008, they lost their cabaret license and the live music which loudly graced Saturday nights for as long as I can remember, was no more. I saw some great local bands get their start here.

Enough of what was, let’s concentrate on what is. This place boasts some serious decor. I really like the three lanterns hanging over the red-glow-lit back bar. They give this place a slight old time bayou feel. The walls have pictures of famous actors and singers spanning over the years. There is also a spot for pictures of locals and possibly the owners themselves. The walls are painted red, which creates a slight hue of burgundy on the drinkers at hand. Their is a boar’s head mounted on the wall above the entry to the pool tables that watches over as the sharks sweep the two tables for their latest prey.

The jukebox is simply one of the best in town with a wide range of rock music from the 60’s on up. One of my favorite pieces is the wooden ship cased in plastic above one of the three hightops in the main bar. For the gamer, there is Big Buck Hunter Pro, where even the novice NRA member can practice his marksmanship after a few beers. I still like the now defunct phone booth which sits near the entry complete with folding door, now just a relic. If I had one complaint, it would be simply that I think there are too many TVs for a bar of this size. The four sets illuminate an otherwise dark room with scenes from whatever fancies the remote holder. At least put on some creative DVD’s that might enhance the environment at this hour of night.

Brian is the other barkeep of note. A musician with an impressive list of accomplishments, he tends well and puts up with noone’s BS. He always has good story or two to relate. With 8 draft handles, the best deal in town for Budweiser and Bud Light drinkers is the $3.00 23 oz. big dipper, cerftainly an affordable libation worthy of this economic crisis we’re in, or rarther were in. I have noticed a slight increase in business over the last few weeks in my places of employ and also the local eateries and bars that I frequent. Could this be a sign of things to come? Happy hour lasts from 8am until 6pm, everyday. According to my deft abilities in the mathematical sciences, that’s ten whole hours of happy. Where else in town can one find such thrifty refreshment all day long?

I think everyone has driven past the corner of Richmond and University in Hillcrest, seen the old fashioned signage and thought to themselves at one time or another, I need to see what this place is all about. While in a predominantly gay neighborhood, I’ve noticed that ,here, there is no gender statement. People from all walks of life and preference are welcome and will often be seen here on any given night, whether sleeved in tattoos or draped with a bad eightie’s haircut. What I love about this place is that it is a comfy neighborhood bar with no pretensions. Seedy enough to discourage unwanted folk, and alluring enough to compel the worthy ilk that call this place their home away from home.

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-295-0881
  • Name: The Alibi
  • Address: 1403 University Avenue