Blame it on Chumbawamba. I have a strict policy to stop and drink every time “Tubthumping” plays on the radio (which, thankfully, since 1997, is once in a blue moon), and last Monday it did. I panicked, as the only bar for miles was The Archway Lounge (684 Telegraph Canyon Road in Chula Vista).
One of my earliest childhood memories is riding in a car, shrieking has we passed the grand dame of East Chula Vista dives, which had faux-stained-glass murals and a huge banner hung outside reading, “Have your keg parties here.” It had a creepy, Carol and Mike Brady had a key party here vibe, and after finally having the pantaloons to venture in, I'm happy to report that it still does.
With its grizzly architecture and awkward location, I couldn't help but wonder if it'd been originally constructed as part of the neighboring Elks Lodge (the outhouse, perhaps?).
Regardless, the seamless combination of wood paneling and popcorn ceiling never looked this nice.
Atop the bar, a stuffed Florida bass named “Illegal Queen”—which, coincidentally, was my nickname during my formative years—keeps watch. Oddly, despite the name of the bar, there are no archways in sight.
Kitschy hoarders, rejoice! Wall real estate is at a premium here, as myriad neon beer advertisements are hung throughout, displacing some of the standard low-tech signs, some of which are for sale (an MGD one goes for $20, and for a mere $15, a jazzy, mirror-backed Nordik Wolf Light number can be yours).
“It's the best deal in town,” bartender Vinny told me as I noticed the in-house advertisement for the $250 keg party, which, apparently, is still the main draw. “We even cordon off the space around the parquet floor for that VIP-area feel. We keep it real.”
A bonus when going out on off nights? Bargain-basement-priced booze. At three bucks a pop for wells, perhaps, as Chumbawamba recommends, I will have a whisky drink, a cider drink and a lager drink.
Pissing the night away, I engaged with my stool neighbor, “Big Ben.” Intrigued, I asked the Norm of this backwoods Cheers if he was of British descent. “Nope. I'm just fat and my name is Ben,” he replied. Way to keep it real, my man.
Notes for scenesters