A Not-so Ode to Bar Pink

As Covid-19 continues to decimate the US economy and its most populous cities and states, San Diego loses yet another popular small business: Bar Pink in North Park. Although it will be reopened in the future, the name, aesthetic, and soul of the bar will be lost to history and remain only in memory and digital pictures. Perhaps, somewhere in an old Converse box, a handful of physical pictures remain, too.

My first experience at Bar Pink was back in 2007 or 2008 while it was still in operation under its original name; The Pink Elephant. I couldn’t have been older than 23 at the time, but I’ll give myself a few years leeway for the sake of the story. That evening, one of my friends was back home on military leave, and his girlfriend at the time wanted a night on the town. Another friend of mine and I decided to tag along.

The first and only drink I purchased was a Blue Hawaiian martini. It tasted like a melted Slurpee with an adult twist, something I found fitting for a cocktail named after an Elvis flick. The night was full of music, boozing, and overtly sexual dancing. I went back to the Pink Elephant one more time with the non-military friend to see a local band called Lion Cut. It was easily the worst show I’d ever seen, yet I applaud the two band members for their dedication to their gimmick of dressing as cats. I wouldn’t return to this bar, now known as Bar Pink, until June of 2017 when I came back to San Diego for a funeral. It was a night that would change the course of my life, and to this day the event seems like a surreal dream.

I enjoyed the atmosphere of Bar Pink; Its black walls, booths with torn vinyl seats and black tables lacquered with glitter. In the bathroom, concert bills adorned the walls and made for good reading when you had to take a piss. The cash-only beer was cheap, the cocktails were stiff, and the bartenders were age appropriate for the atmosphere. It was punk rock mixed with a bit of lounge and a lemon zest of infidelity. Add a maraschino cherry for garnish.

John Reis (also known as the Swami) of Rocket From the Crypt and his ex-wife were co-owners of Bar Pink, but I’ve been told that she put in most of the hard work to keep it running. From multiple accounts, she was the true champion of that bar. I’m not trying to discredit Reis, either. He was known for impromptu secret shows at the bar, which in itself is a treat. I’m sure fans of his helped spread the word of Bar Pink, especially in its infant years. I like to think he had a big hand to play in the musical aspects of the bar.

Between 2017 and 2020, I went to Bar Pink a number of times. Some good, some beyond shitty, sometimes alone. That’s the gamble you take when you roll the dice on a dive bar, though.

When it reopens as the Part Time Lover under the Consortium brand, I don’t know if I’ll be returning. After all, perhaps it was time to put a bullet in this sick dog a long time ago. Here’s to you, Bar Pink. I’d have a Blue Hawaiian for you, but how about we settle on Tecate and PBR instead?

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