the side barWith the tag line “everyone needs a little on the side” it is easy for me to be disdainful. If I am going to cheat on my favorite dive bars and hangouts with Side Bar, I am just licking the bottom of the an empty shot glass left behind trying to convince myself it was worth the potential roofie or mono. It is not.

The Side Bar has been around since 2004 and is located on East 7th. At this point they are depending on their location and cheap prices in order to stay in business. The reason why I do not respect them as a potential side piece is because they are interchangeable with any number of bars on dirty 6th or throughout the country. In Austin, you should expect a little more. Everything they have can found in multiple places either doing the same or doing it better. Wouldn’t you want to cheat with someone exotic or fall in love with someplace unique?

They have outdoor seating with long wooden tables in order to smoke and drink. So does Cheer up Charlies, but they tried to infuse color and art for distinctive selfies that others could pinpoint. Too flamboyant and weird for your taste, head over to the Historic Scoot Inn who has been doing it longer and has a variety of ways to entertain you: skee ball, live performances, and food. Do not worry, the hipsters that dot Side Bar’s landscape can be found at all other locations in the city. There is never a shortage of people that you do not like and love to feel superior over, they can be found anywhere.

The missing charisma of Side Bar makes me question the groups that call it their home base. Why are they not seeking out a location that caters to their individuality and makes them feel at home? The excuse that it is low key cannot be even used, because on the weekends Side Bar is just as packed as any other location in the vicinity. The best time to go downtown is never the weekend. All bars are pretty subdued Sunday through Thursday without the heavy drinking, hard partying weekend crowd.

Their sound system sucks. Not billed as a live venue for a reason, they would butcher whoever would be unlucky enough to request to play there. The musical selection during the week is an affront to the Live Music Capital of the World, relying on shuffling through the staff’s iTunes library of popular songs. Nothing sets it apart in matters of taste. Plush, Barcelona, and Empire Control Room are for your electronic needs. Cheer Up Charlies, Mohawk, and Stubbs has your alternative bands covered. Valhalla even has a vinyl night and they love KISS. As a non-chain bar they should settle on a genre that tells the story of the Side Bar, even if it is just nonstop R&B crooning and setting the mood. I would love that by the way.

The drink specials and the interior is nothing to boast about either. Their drinks are cheap, but so is the entire block in order to compete and entice milling strangers. Want to get hammered? May I suggest Thursday night Liquor Pitchers at Shakespeare’s. Everyone has done that a least once in Austin. For the pour and the size it is a five dollars well spent except for the loss of memory experienced with getting black out drunk.

Happy hour is pretty much the same across the board in all the bars. As for the dive aspect of the interior you could be anywhere. With ripped up seats and little decoration it may be hard to remember what bar you walked into in the first place. With a side eye to the Side Bar for lack of any discerning quality, at least they are a locally owned bar. Alright, but I’d rather be at Barbarella. At least there I can dance.

A.J. Whitaker

A.J. Whitaker is from San Antonio who decided to make it big in Austin. Every day she curses the traffic and all the other people who had the same idea to move. When she is not passing judgment on businesses she is submitting fiction to literary journals. Follow her success and lack of it, on her personal blog www.smashlin.com.