Tucson: Bar None If You're Under Twenty-One

Here is a guide and critique of Tucson's college bar scene.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Dirtbag's: a part of growing up you're not likely to remember

Dirtbag's, 1800 E. Speedway Boulevard, was famous in my mind. I repeatedly heard its name even years before I was old enough to know what a bar was. My sister had her graduation party there in May of 1990 (it was at the other Dirtbag's location--yes, there were two--that is now Four Points by Sheraton).

A couple months ago, pre-21, Dirtbag's was all I could think about. Older students always talked about it, explaining how it was where everyone ended their nights. I even knew that is was referred to as "fratbags" because there always seemed to be a heavy Greek presence there.

My first time at Dirtbag's was an experience. Arriving around midnight I thought I might have been there at the wrong time. From what I heard before, if you didn't get there by 11 p.m. you'd have to wait in line and shove your way through to get to the bar. Maybe I just had good luck or it was a slow night, but I got right in. No wait at all.

The interior reminded me of your classic bar. I'm not really sure what defines "classic," but I loved the wood panel look the place had--on the ceilings and the walls. Along with the wood panels dispersed throughout the walls were wooden frames fillwed with old newspaper clippings or magazine pages (some very random, like what appeared to be a '70s advertisement for Eureka vacuums).

The place was separated into three areas, similar to O'Malleys. The first location was the rectangular bar that filled the room you first entered. Most of the customers stood around the bar, but there were patrons standing throughout the outter areas. A little room set aside from the main bar stood tall table and stools. There you could see the students who were too tired to stand any longer and needed a break from the night.

The next area was a room completely separate from the main bar. This area had a mini bar of its own. This seemed like a cozier place to hang out with friends, yet still quite loud. The doors in it lead to the outside patio. This was the third section of Dirtbag's. About a dozen tables filled the patio. It looked different than I imagined it. Driving past this bar you notice the black metal bars that surround the outside patio. I'm uncertain why they had those up, but nonetheless it was a feeling of satisfaction to be on the other side of the bars for once.

What impressed me was the bathroom availability. Unlike O'Malleys, I didn't have to wait 5 minutes for an open stall. There was room in the bathroom for people to actually walk and even take a break at the mirror to touch-up makeup. I can't comment on the men's bathroom, but the women's bathroom was better than other bathrooms I had experienced.

What I liked about the bar was not only its notoriety, but the fact that there was a working jukebox. I'm not sure if the music was ever actually played, seeing as I paid for 4 songs that I never heard, but the excitement from a jukebox was enough to make my night fulfilled.

The fun part about leaving Dirtbag's was probably the rush for everyone to leave. People slowly congregated outside in groups trying to figure out where the night went from there. You could see a few people stumbling here and there, and others pointing and laughing.

It's true what they say: Dirtbag's is a part of growing up. The bar is a landmark for the University of Arizona. Everyone knows the name, and everyone awaits the experience. Just remember that Dirtbag's is closed Sunday nights, so be sure to make your plans accordingly.


Dirtbag's Daily Specials

Dirtbag's Specialties


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