4673 30th Street, North Park
The first thing you’ll notice about Air Conditioned Lounge is the distinct absence of air conditioning. In fact, the iconic “Air Conditioned” sign outside the lounge (their website calls it the “most unassuming building on 30th Street”) is a remnant of the old Your Place Bar and Grill karaoke bar.
“We found the property in 2003,” says owner Gary John. “In those days there was nothing out in Normal Heights for cool entertainment. We designed the bar with what we hoped was a timeless feel — you wouldn’t know if it was ’68, ’78, ’88...”
That means table tops painted in the image of citrus slices, retro post-modern lampshades, leather everywhere, and vintage James Bond posters glowing over the VIP pit.
Bartender Jeff mixes a whiskey sour and a screen behind the bar flips through images of cocktails, women, and Gary hanging out with the Most Interesting Man in the World. Tom Tom Club plays “Genius of Love” from a newly upholstered flat screen while artists study a model in studded leather platform boots, a neon green tutu, black angel wings, and glitter lipstick.
The weekly costumed-figure drawing night, Air Condition Composition, moves to Sundays mid-August to be replaced on Mondays with dubstep/drum-n-bass night Organized Grime. Other nights, the dance floor heats up with Top 40, nu-disco, and ’80s standards. Every third Wednesday is Humpnight, a “dirty, nasty electro night which is always packed” and prone toward impromptu break-dance-offs. Junior the Discopunk brings electro, ’80s, and party jams every Friday.
Something of an oddity for the neighborhood, the AC Lounge enforces a strict dude dress code on Fridays and Saturdays, so don’t even think about trying to get your swagger on in sleeveless shirts, baseball caps, ’do rags, shorts, or “excessively baggy” pants. Accentuating the retro post-modern Gaslamp vibe is the VIP Freon Room, a secluded corner booth complete with door beads and stripper pole.
“Starting this year, a lot has changed,” says John. “We’re totally redoing the underground, crystal-meth-lab look and putting in a large window so our guests can enjoy San Diego weather and a cocktail without being shut inside in the dark.”
Now, get out there and dance your skinny pants off.
Hours: Mon–Fri, 4 to 2 (Happy: 4 to 8, $4 everythings); Sat, 8 to 2; Sun, 5 to 12
Prices: drafts, $5–6; bottles, $4–15; cocktails, $5+