Tiburon Tavern
Mariah Brennan Clegg

Name of Bar: Tiburon Tavern

Address: 3116 State Street

Location: Upper State just above its intersection with de la Vina

Days/Hours: 2 PM – 2 AM Monday through Thursday, 11 AM – 2 AM on Friday, 12 PM – 2 AM Saturday and Sunday

Happy Hour: $1 off everything from 2PM – 4PM, 50 cents off everything from 4PM – 7PM

Known As: The after-work neighborhood dive to end all dives!

Notable Decor: Fake moosehead that was draped in ladies’ undergarments…until the beast became overburdened.

Patrons: Two parts after-work regulars of all ages, one part mixed bag, add a splash of off-duty bartenders and a dash of Duffman.

Special Draw: Karaoke every Friday night, themed karaoke one Saturday a month, run by Dino-Mike, who works everyone into the rotation and refuses to take tips.

Quote from a Patron: “There are four tables. There used to be five. One was broken in a fight.”

Food Find of the Night: They have a vending machine. Chips, candy bars, Pop Tarts. All $1. Boy, do they have us figured out.

Game Find of the Night: A boxing video game – look out, Wii!

Before you leave, you should…:…sing along to a guilty-pleasure country song.

My experience: Christmas lights are good for a lot of things. They’re great for giving dorm rooms ambient light, for making jewelry sparkle and stemware shine. They lend bars and lounges a light, youthful glow, and they tend to brighten the mood. So you can imagine my delight when I saw a strand of little white lights hung with messy joy, blinking and chasing around a sign reading Tiburon Tavern. It was the middle of September, and the door, thick and wooden like the ones back home, was open. The sign, hit with red lights and crowned with ivy, depicts a shark swimming in a martini glass. Tiburon, of course, is Spanish for shark.

As I walked through the threshold, I had to laugh. Not a scornful laugh, just a quiet laugh of mild amusement. The way I see it, one of two things is the case here.

One: The Tiburon is blissfully self-unaware. The place was decorated with abandon, with no eye for symmetry or unity or order. There was no filter, no process of evaluation, no regard for zoning laws. Nor did they care much about the limitations of their space. Too small for a stage, and far too small for a dance floor, karaoke singers spilled into the threshold and dancers blocked the emergency escape routes. From the already too-low ceiling, a surfboard was suspended!

Two: They are waging open war against all things shiny and new. Enough with the pretending, the egos, the makeup. Enough with the two-tone, the black and white boring. Enough with the trick of making small things look big. Enough with slinky black dresses and bartenders in bowties. Enough with having to choose between disco balls and faux fireplaces, now let’s go get blazed!

Until I noticed the shark on the sign, I might have bid for option one.

But however it’d come about, they’d cultivated a sense of home. It felt cozy and warm and full of friendly faces, though I’d never met anyone here before. Tiny and dressed with wood paneling, I couldn’t help but be charmed by this place. Everything seemed homemade. DJ Dino-Mike, who tonight had given up his standard Audrey II hand puppet for a Duffman costume, passed out a book of karaoke songs. But rather than the standard set, the spiral bound Rockstar edition, his was self-compiled and organized with homemade dividers, decorated with his own drawings. He used actual CDs for some of the songs, and if he didn’t have a song, he’d find it for next time.

Of course, such a feeling of belonging begs for self-evaluation. The Tiburon is homey, yes, but perhaps it’s more of a halfway home. Home for deviants and degenerates. Home for strangers and too-regular regulars, for cougars in tight glitter tees and men in those horrible mafia bowling shirts two sizes too big. The essence of comfort for a backwards soul like me. An older couple started to dance.

The Tiburon Tavern might just take the cake for Santa Barbara’s least refined bar. But thank god for that. They’ve got no interest in putting on a front, no interest in pretend swank. You go to the Tiburon to unwind and have a good time. You don’t need anything fancy for that.


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