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The Tower Bar

4757 University Avenue, City Heights

Tower Bar’s namesake tower in City Heights is visible from blocks away, jutting skyward between Vietnamese Laundromats and Ethiopian restaurants like a cartoon monument to a forgotten Aztec deity.

The place is almost at maximum capacity. A line of patrons extends from the door. I show the doorman my I.D. and get a stamp. “Fucktard,” it reads.

Videos of glam babes in bikinis shooting automatic weapons illuminate the crowded bar. A sign above the bar advertises absinthe for $10. Framed photos on the wall show where a drunk driver plowed into the bar in 1964, inspiring the moniker “the original hole-in-the-wall.” Now, all the support beams lean west in homage to that fateful day.

I grab a tall bottle of Racer 5 ($7) from the jovial bartender, Thaddeus, and disappear into the sweaty mass of show goers.

Local happy punks the Beaters make some noise while, outside, patrons smoke cigarettes and line up to re-enter as a wizened Vietnamese woman named Lom Sok sweeps garbage and butts from the sidewalk and gutters.

An Arrogant Bastard ($7) later, S.D. heroes the Soft Pack (formerly the Muslims) unleash Drive Like Jehu–inspired post-punk breakdowns overlaid with candid Pavement-esque vocal melodies. Celebrating a self-titled album release, the Soft pack has made the Tower one of their first stops before embarking on a tour throughout the U.S., the U.K., and Europe.

After, the place empties out until a handful of steadfast boozers remain. The owner, Mick, a laidback Aussie with a greaser hair-do, slides me a 24-ounce “man can” of Pabst Blue Ribbon ($5) and laments the bureaucratic absurdity of permit regulations in San Diego. “You have to have a permit for alcohol, a permit for music, even a permit for dancing,” he relates with a distant look. “But the City doesn’t want to give out any of them.” Iggy Pop comes over the jukebox and a few girls leave their stools to groove around on the vacant floor. “Do me a favor,” Mick says with a grin. “Tell those girls to stop dancing.”

The Tower Bar

4757 University Avenue, City Heights




  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $5–7; mixed drinks $4; no cover
  • Happy Hour: until 7 p.m.(ish), $3 drafts
  • Food: sometimes
  • Max Cap: 73 persons
  • Hours: Mon–Tues. 7 p.m.–2 a.m.; Wed–Sun. 2 p.m.–2 a.m.
  • And: free eating contest Thursdays and free BBQ at 4 p.m. Sundays
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Comments

Joe Poutous March 11, 2010 @ 8:12 a.m.

One of the best damn bars in San Diego. Don't go there.

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SDaniels March 16, 2010 @ 10:53 p.m.

I feel close to you, in terms of what we both do with, and to, commas, Chad. The detail of Lom Sok hit me in the best sudden way--I think part of your success has to do with how you work the reader's attention, like this complex shifting of the reader's mental gears. Tell your proofreader to work harder, though: "the Soft pack has made the Tower..." and respect this writing from one of the baddest ass writers in this publication!

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