Of all the great bars and the incredible weekend nightlife scene where every Friday and Saturday night is like New Year’s Eve, there is something missing in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter when it comes to all-out fun.
It’s not as missing as, say, a Comic Con without Super Heroes in costumes or OB without hippies. But it’s enough to be noticed, especially for tourists, people in town for conventions and us Gaslamp residents. And that is a rocking Happy Hour bar.
I’m talking the kind of place that going there is as automatic as doing social media posts, as much of a no-brainer as calling your mother on her birthday, a place so engrained in the mindset that people don’t need to text their friends to say where they are going because they know everyone will be there. And then some.
Oh, sure, there are plenty of places that have Happy Hours. Nearly every bar and restaurant in the Gaslamp has one, some of which have great prices of $5 beers and drinks and food for less than $7. I even published a story on the best Gaslamp Quarter Happy Hours, a ranking that includes the liveliness of the scene at the included bars and restaurants.
But no place causes me to rush through a blog post, hope I don’t get a business phone call or e-mail at 5 ’till 5 so I can burst out the door in a full sprint in order to get to place before it’s too crowded. That’s what a rockin’ Happy Hour can do to people.
I’ve experienced a few of those places – most notably a cantina called Tequila Willie’s when I lived in Manhattan Beach, CA – when on Fridays after 3 the concentration level shifted from work to pleasure, where I would say quick “goodbyes” to people as I was anxiously bouncing on my feet ready to roll, all the while hoping I would not get stuck in a long conversation or be stuck in a too-long client meeting or call.
No, instead of that, I have to curb my party enthusiasm until after 9 on Fridays when the Gaslamp nightlife scene heats up like a single guy stumbling upon a bikini model’s photo shoot. Weekdays are so slow I hardly ever go out those days. That’s like keeping the lid on shaken-up beer can.
The best social scene by far in the Gaslamp Quarter during the Happy Hour times is barleymash, tho it no longer has an actual Happy Hour. I keep waiting for Lavo, the TAO hospitality-owned restaurant across form barleymash, to be as good as its predecessor was on Fridays, the awesome Seersucker. But that has yet to materialize. That’s likely because it’s too expensive: cocktails are close to $20 tho beers are about 8 bucks, which is a dollar cheaper than several other Gaslamp restaurant/bars but not an enticing let’s-go-there early-evening price. Probably realizing this, it just started a Happy Hour.
Karina’s Cantina, on 5th Ave., a couple doors up from the recently-closed Sugar Factory, has a beautiful bar with a few $5 beers and $7 margaritas and $10 appetizers for Happy Hour, but that ends too early for a really jammin’ scene, at 6 p.m. Plus, it’s more of a restaurant than a bar anyway and when the dozen or so cozy bar chairs are full, there’s no place to really stand to be comfortable or any place to lean.
Here’s a suggestion: Since most people don’t go out in the Gaslamp until 9 or later, have Happy Hours that go until 9 or later. Crazy idea? Not really; American Junkie has a Happy Hour from 9-10 on Friday nights.
So, Gaslamp bars – who is going to step up and fill this void? I, for one, am waiting. And not very patiently, either.
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