Paul Pot

Viva la Divebar!

As of this posting in 2023 I have an ongoing show of Dive Bar and Watering Holes drawings at the Rite Spot Cafe at the corner of 17th St and Folsum St in San Francisco. It was supposed to end on February 28th but it is still ongoing and I have replaced some of the drawings that have sold. I will continue to do so until they tell me to take them down. Do not miss this show.

Warning: It is recommended that you use your browsers back button to navigate backwards on this site. You don't know what rabbit hole you may go down.

Geary Club, Geary Street, San Francisco

You can easily miss this place on the north side of Geary near Hyde. It has a four inch sign above the door that just says, “BAR.” There is tree planted by the street that blocks the view from the cars. I walked by it twice while looking for it. When you step into the bar your are easily charmed by it’s cozy feel. It’s run by June who is 83 who closes the bar four nights a week at 2 am. The other two bartenders I met were both women. Cash only and they don’t make bloody marys. It draws a crowd of nice regulars and the occasional odd ball from neighboring areas. I met one of the latter when I was there.. He told me a story about when he was in the pen, his brother asked if he could take out his wife. He said fine. The brother then asked if he could borrow his motorcycle. That was ok, too. When he got out they took out a restraining order on him. That was ok. He understood. But he was angry about the bike. SOLD

Aunt Charlie's Lounge, Turk Street, San Francisco

This is that last, of many, gay dive bars in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, it’s a nice friendly place for a drink on a hot summer day. The bartenders make you feel right at home. The crowd in the afternoon is older, quieter, and welcoming and the night crowd is younger. This is something that all dive bars have in common. The drag queen shows on Friday and Saturday nights do give it a tad of a difference. The SF Chronicle said it best,“. ...both the brassy shows and the quiet daytime communion preserve Aunt Charlie’s original spirit as a place of refuge, for this older daytime crowd as well as the younger generation that comes at night to rave." There’s a guy cooking steaks on a sidewalk grill a few steps away. I didn’t ask if you could bring them in so I don't know about that. But it was tempting. SOLD

Missouri Lounge, San Pablo Ave, Berkeley CA

The Missouri Lounge opened in 1952. The original owner, who ran it until around 2000, named it after the battleship where Japan signed the surrender ending WWII. She was a little crabby. It’s a lone survivor of the many dive bars that used to line San Pablo Avenue and its environs in Berkeley: The Tunnel Inn, the Bay Bridge Inn, Dew Drop Inn, the Blind Lemon, Mike and Mary’s, the W&S Club, Sam’s (see Sam’s) and that place where Lanesplitter is now. When I moved to Berkeley in 1975, I didn’t want to go into it. There were some serious drinkers among its small clientele. The new owner turned the running of the bar to a younger crowd who have made it popular but it still maintains that divvy character with the same décor, many of the original fixtures, and pictures. I run an open mic there. SOLD

Stassi's 4th Ward Tavern, Marysville CA

Stassi’s has a long history. It’s name comes from a time before there were addresses when it was known as the" tavern in the fourth ward". It’s right next to the railroad tracks and every time a train goes by they spin the wheel. If your chair has the number that comes up, you get a free drink. The bar is in transition. They’ve added a bunch of taps and a patio with horseshoes that which is popular with the younger folks, but on a weekend day it maintains it’s divier roots with the neighborhood crowd. I met a nice woman who introduced me to Marysville’s Santa Claus (and Mrs. C) as well as a Clamper. The order of E. Clampus Vitus is a fraternal organizition of drunks and partiers that goes back to the gold rush days and is dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the American West.. When he turned to say, “Hello,” you could almost see the level of alcohol in his system like a horizontal, liquid line across the center of his eyes. SOLD

Field and Stream, Marysville CA

The bar is right nextdoor to the Sutter County Probation office. I entered this bar to the strong smell of bathroom disinfectant as a result of something that had occurred the night before. There were three young women (one talking about her baby) and two older men buying them drinks. I heard one say, “I never turn down a free drink.” I talked to her as I was drawing and told her of my dive bar project. She said, “This isn’t a dive bar. For that you need to go to Grumpy’s in Linda. Yeah, sure. This bar has a signature drink: the syringe shot (pictured on the table) that you squirt into your mouth. The one I tried came recommended by the young woman. It was called the Audacious MF and it was equal parts of gin, vodka, and rum dyed bright blue. SOLD

Sam's 58 Club (closed 1998), Berkeley CA

In 1947, Sam bought the family store and built a bar next to the Heinz factory naming it the 58th variety to Heinz's 57.. It was a fixture as blue collar hangout in industrial Berkeley. Sam would play the bottles with spoons to the jukebox. When I started going there the jukebox was full of singles (old blues, rock’n'roll, Sinatra, etc) from the personal collection of a Fantasy Studios employee. Sam had sayings like, “B Boop”, "shithouse mouse” (he loved Mickey Mouse), and "He’s tapioca". It was a place of friends and you were welcome no matter who or what you were. Though the sign said “Absolutely no checks cashed” they cashed them all the time. You could get take out drinks in “go" cups until some fool got caught driving with one and told the cops where he got it. You can read more about Sam's at “Quirky Berkeley" on the web. I miss the place. When my daughter was two days old, the first place she went to wasn’t home, it was Sam's. After a dry nine months my wife plopped her right down on the bar and said to bartender Bruno, “I need a drink!” SOLD

2101 Club, MacArthur Blvd, Oakland CA

This bar turned out to be less of a dive and more of a great neighborhood watering hole. No pretentious fancy drinks, just the basics in the world of call and well drinks. A few nice beers on tap. The crowd was a big group of friendly folks having drinks on a Saturday afternoon. A guy had a box of cakes that he regularly picked up from Taste Of Denmark bakery for the other people in the bar. "You know, that red velvet cake you got me last week was just delicious." I had a few beers and nice conversations while drew my picture. I could have stayed hours longer. SOLD

Smitty's, Grand Ave, Oakland CA

This bar is everything that a dive bar should be. Dark. Cash only. No draft beer. Pool table. These simple basics are in store for the regulars or those who don’t know what they have walked into. It's been that way for what seems like forever. The room with the pool table is brightly lit and there is no wall between it and the bar yet, somehow, the bright light doesn’t cross the invisible barrier between it and the bar. I’ve been told that the new owner has no plans to change the feel of the place.. Keep the faith. SOLD

Geo Kaye, Broadway, Oakland CA

“Man Found in Water in San Francisco Was Bartender at Geo. Kayes,” read the story headline in 2013. David Biddle was co-owner of the bar and, after his death, many came to the bar to remember and honor him. His name comes up always. Why? It’s because he was special and Geo. Kayes is a special place. It carries on a great tradition that makes a great bar. As they say on their shirt, “This isn’t a dive bar, it’s a neighborhood joint.” That couldn’t be more true. It is a place of friends, both old and new. It is straightforward without any trace of shi-shi to be seen. I’m sure this place has seen many changes since it opened in 1934. I can only speak to the 1990’s when it was a night hangout for punk rockers. As the afternoon crowd of old guard drinkers slowly transitioned into the punkers, the two groups would mix and converse. They were all friends. All were welcomed and still are.

The Alley, Grand Ave, Oakland CA

“Featuring Rod Dibble at the Piano Bar”, the sign outside proclaimed in tribute to the late Rod Dibble who for decades held court every night accompanying patrons (both amateur and professional)as they sat around the piano singing popular songs from supplied songbooks. He was a one-man Oakland institution who passed away in 2017. Perhaps they didn’t have the heart to take the sign down. But the tradition carried on with new players in this bar designed to look like a shack in an alley, decorated with photos, and festooned with thousands of business cards from the legion of patrons who graced the room. A favorite of locals, a must-see on your Oakland tour, and the home of one fine burger. SOLD

Purple Porpoise Pub, Overseas Hwy, Big Coppitt Key, FL

Another in the series of dive bar drawings. In August of 2021 I went on a two hour drive from my mother's house near Key Largo, Florida to a spot about 9 miles outside of Key West where I hoped to find, as described by tales from many in Florida and posts on social media, the holy grail of dive bars. I was not disappointed. If this is not it, I look forward to the quest to find the one that is. The Purple Porpoise Pub, whose name comes from the safe area for the owner's platoon in Vietnam, is a shoe box shaped, cement building on Big Coppitt Key just off the Overseas Highway that connects all of the Florida Keys. It was said that the bars in Key West (that are all very nice) were more like this one before Key West became a tourist town. One legend has the bar putting a rug out front at night so the patrons could sleep it off before driving home. As a result Big Coppitt had gotten the nickname Big Carpet Key.

Caribbean Club, Key Largo, FL

Caribbean Club in Key Largo. Open since 1938 this bar's claim to fame is that it is where the movie Key Largo (exterior shots) was filmed. There is a big sign along the main road proclaiming that fact. Cardboard stand-ups of Bacall and Bogart and a ceramic Bogie from Casablanca are at the entrance. Known to locals as the Crib (short for Carib) the bar was open for over half a century without a front door. The first one was installed in 2017. A regular was quite drunk in the afternoon and the bartender explained, through the corner of his mouth, to a tourist that the place is a "high tolerence" bar.

133 Club, Manteca CA

I once spent a night with an ex at a motel in Manteca. It is an old bar in Manteca that had to change its name when the town renumbered all the street addresses. Originally it was called the 33 Club. The old sign is on the wall inside. She and I went out to this bar on a Friday night. We drank and played pool. After I won a game the next player was this very beatiful woman. My ex came up to me and whispered in my ear that, if I wanted to, I could drive her back to the motel and hook up with the woman I was playing with. Even with permission I would only feel like a cad. I went back the next day and did this drawing.

Clooneys on Valencia, San Francisco

As I was sitting in my seat drawing the fella next to me leaned over and told me that this was one of oldest and last neighborhood bars in the Mission. As I drew I began to see how true that was. Everybody who came in knew each other enjoyed being around them. As people came and went it was clear that just about everybody who walked into the bar knew everybody else. Either that, or they were just being as nice to every stranger who walked in as they were to me. SOLD

Club Tac, Crockett CA

I've seen two bars in Crocket. This one and Toot's. Toot's is really nice and has a great stage and band room. Club Tac is a true dive. All the times I have been there I have only seen a few people in the place. They were all very nice and some were just a little tipsy. The walls are cluttered up The bar walls are full of Clamper certificates. The Clampers are a fraternal society of drinkers said to go back to the gold rush days. They have long been known for helping "widders and orphans" and other charitable deeds. The LA Times said they are either a historical society of drinkers or a drinkers historical society. Enough about them. The owner of the Club Tac also owns a bar near Fairfield that is decorated in bras. I have to check that out. SOLD

Dovre Club on Valencia, San Francisco

I've been really comfortable at the Dovre over in the mission. I run into a fellow musician there when I stop by. We always have a nice chat, but I always have a nice chat with everybody there. The place is owned by Elvis. I have not met Elvis, yet. Perhaps he is legendary. Some day I hope to find out. Just a block from Clooneys.

Ocean View, Islamorada FL

The Ocean View proudly claims to have the "oldest liquor license in the keys." It sits on the bay side of highway one and has absolutely no view of the ocean. It would have that view if it was on the other side of the highway where a motel is. Legend has it that a hurricane just picked it up one day and dropped it on the other side of the road. Scholars may argue. Anyway it has a music stage and outdoor seating area in the back that is frequently visited by the tourists. The locals drink up front in the bar which they also do very frequently. When the taps and ice bucket combo was installed in the 1990's, it was named the baby's casket. SOLD

Pop's Bar, 24th and York, San Francisco

Rumor has it that Pops ran the Clubhouse, during prohibition where alcohol was served but the exact date can't be confirmed. However there is confirmation that he was a bootlegger. At least that is what it says on the Pops website. Opened in 1937 it went through various owners and moved to its current location in 1971.

Red's Place, Chinatown, San Francisco

Chinatown's oldest bar. Though not as well known as the Li Po or the Buddha Lounge it offers a bit of authenticity in a part of town long on stereotype *. When I stopped by there was a nice crowd of folks off work, locals, and young people out for the night.

( * paraphrased from the 2005 book " San Francisco's Best Dive Bars: Drinking and Diving in the City by the Bay")

Rite Spot Cafe, 17th and Folsum, San Francisco

This is where my show of dive bar drawings is currently on display. In the dive bar book I quote for Red's Place, the Rite Spot gets grandfathered into the realm of dive bars by overlooking the kitchen's good food and white table cloths and concentrating on its awful bathrooms. The bathrooms are no longer awful. But still I included it because, despite its long years of supporting local artist and musicians (for which it should be commended), the place has heart, a local following that gathers there in the afternoons to drink, and it was in the book, dammit! Anyway my series is called "Dive Bars and Watering Holes." Somebody's drinking enough to use those bathrooms. SOLD

Ruth's on Treat Street, San Francisco

The popular bar, formerly known as the Blind Cat and before that as Dirty Thieves, and even befor that as Treat Street Cocktails, reopened as Ruth's on Treat Street after COVID, and it is still a dive! While I was drawing the picture a woman came in for a drink, went next door to the beauty parlor, came back, in an apron, and over the next couple of hours in various states of transition from hair net through goop and such, to the finished product of striking raven tresses. Everybody there loved her. . SOLD (I think. Somebody wrote that on the tag. Was it you?)

The Stork Club (not Thee Stork Club), Oakland CA

Before it closed down during COVID the Stork Club dwelled on Telegraph Avenue as a dive bar by day and dingy punk rock/heavy metal club bgy night. It was originally opened by Micky and Wes on 12th ? Street but moved to its new location when it was determined that the original building was no longer safe after the Loma Prieta earthquake. Mickey worked the bar in her cowgirl outfit at 12th but I don't remember seeing her on Telegraph. The bar was known for her Barbie Doll collection.My band played there a few times. Now called Thee Stork Club, it has a cleaned-up, colorful, retro look ala John Waters (who is involved in the place) and holds shows with a better sound system.In a few years it should collect some dinge.. SOLD

Winters Tavern, Pacifica CA

Winters Tavern is a great place. It is the life passion of CJ, the owner. The club's motto is, "No Really, IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC." That is a great thing. They have music just about every night. With the stage and dance area it is less intimate than your typical dive bar, but it is a local stop for local characters having a drink most any time of the day, and takes on that intimate feeling with Paul running the bar. But there is a personal capper for me. There was a time that my band played there and a friend of mine (who lived in Pacifica) would not come to see us. She felt the place was "beneath her" and would not go in. I'm guessing because it is a dive.