For whatever reason, you’ve decided not to drink this evening, but your friends are still dragging you out to the bars anyway. Cue a few hours of loud music, shouted conversation and watching everyone around you get tipsy. What fun.
What to do? Talk your gang into visiting one of these Valley bars, where you can still have a perfectly enjoyable evening while staying sober (yes, it is possible).
1. The Yard
As you might expect from the name, the centerpiece of this “bar” is an outdoor yard-like space. It features comfy couches around fire pits (better in the winter than the summer), outdoor tables and games. The games include ping pong, cornhole (bean bag toss), a giant Jenga set and more. And, being sober, you’ll have a serious competitive advantage over everyone else. The Yard is actually a group of bars and restaurants clustered around the outdoor entertainment area. Of the eateries, most notable is Culinary Dropout, which serves up a fantastic – and reasonably priced – pub burger. (Read an in-depth review of Culinary Dropout at Entertainer Magazine.)
The Yard, 149 S. Farmer Ave, Tempe | (480) 240-1601
The Yard, 5632 N. 7th Street Phoenix | (602) 680-4040
When you first walk into Bullshooters, prepare for a bit of a surprise. The bar takes up less than a quarter of the venue’s space. The rest is home to 40 pool tables and 17 dartboards (both soft and steel-tipped varieties). If darts is your game, you’re in for a treat. The gentleman who owns the place is a champion thrower, and you’ll often run into other high-powered players who are generally happy to offer pointers on your game.
Along with pool and darts, you’ll find ping pong, billiards, shuffle board and other enjoyable time-wasters. Plus there’s a rare indoor smoking lounge outfitted with TVs for catching up on your favorite sports teams. On Saturday through Wednesday, the TVs click off and Karaoke takes the stage. The wait staff is friendly and roves around taking drink and food orders.
Bullshooters, 3337 W Peoria Ave, Phoenix | (602) 441-2447
3. Linger Longer Lounge
This bar is a bit of a secret, tucked away in a tiny shopping complex (the entrance is around back). Once inside, you’ll find three sections: the bar and dance floor, the courtyard and the lounge.
The bar area includes pub tables and some booths but, during dance nights, it gets crowded and loud after 9 p.m. Unless like you like to dance when you’re sober, you won’t be hanging out here much. The entry courtyard, however, is furnished with a few tables and a nice old-fashioned vibe, if you prefer a quieter place to sit.
Feeling more energetic? Continue on to the game lounge, home to two dartboards, a shuffleboard table and – wait for it – two skee ball games. The skee ball games include the added advantage of being “linked,” so you can challenge friends to a competition. The game lounge is a bit quieter than the main bar and generally less crowded. An added bonus in this area is a water dispenser, so you don’t have to brave the bar crowd to curb your desert thirst. Tip: Try to snag the nice corner couch area for group hangouts and games.
Linger Longer Lounge, 6522 N. 16th St. Ste 6, Phoenix | (602) 264-4549
4. Santisi Brothers
When your favorite team is playing, you don’t want to be at a crowded bar straining to watch a tiny TV that you can’t hear. Santisi Brothers offers 100 televisions and the “Wide Wall of Sports” for your sports-watching enjoyment.
The New York vibe translates into signature Italian dishes including hearty pasta. And if pizza is your choice, what could be better than New York style? Of course, if your team is taking a beating, that could make harder to avoid the alcohol.
Santisi Brothers, 2710 W. Bell Rd., Phoenix | (602) 789-7979. Also, check out our other favorite sports bars around the Valley.
5. Crescent Ballroom
Housed in a renovated auto-repair shop from the 1910s, Crescent Ballroom has plenty of options besides drinking. There’s a free lounge for … well … lounging, that hosts regular free events like trivia night, stand-up comedy or music acts.
Then there’s the 550-person venue that hosts music acts and other shows just about every night of the week, some free and others for a fee. Cocina 10 restaurant is the other attraction, open until midnight nightly serving a wide range of “Mexican-accented road food,” including the delectable Sonoran Hotdog.
Persons under 21 are allowed with restrictions. If you aren’t taking the light rail, be aware it does cost $5 to park at either of the two nearby parking lots.
Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. 2nd Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85003, (602) 716-2222
Want to get your drink on? Find out where to get the best margaritas in the Valley.
– Justin Ferris, Phoenix.org