The Short List: Tucson's best bars and clubs

By Mark Sussman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 28, 2004

All night spots are not created equal; we break it down so you can too

Saturday night means different things to different people. For some, it's an evening sipping martinis under mood lighting and piano jazz. For others, it's grinding your crotch into some anonymous girl on the dance floor and expelling your weight in sweat before being physically ejected from a club by an ex-Hell's Angel.

Whether you prefer bourgeois elegance or nihilistic debauchery, Tucson can provide an evening's entertainment. In fact, the choices for drinks and dancing are so extensive that we couldn't possibly include them all here. Instead, here are a select few clubs and bars to try out.

Club Congress
311 E. Congress St.

Located inside of Hotel Congress, this club offers a wide array of possibilities. It has weekly club nights, including karaoke and an insanely popular 80's night, live music featuring up-and-coming indie bands and other more established acts and four bars, each with an extensive selection of beer and liquor.

Club Congress is regularly patronized by all types, from the young and hip to the aging and near-senile. The lobby is a chic-ish tiled affair with a pricier bar. No well drinks here. The northern wall of the lobby is adorned with paintings by local artists. Inside the club area of Hotel Congress is the Tap Room, a more typical bar with cheaper drinks.

In addition to the events expected of a club, Congress hosts benefits and more unusual events, like the recent performance of the musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" that took place in the Banquet Room.

Che's Lounge
350 N. Fourth Ave.

Related links
Club Congress



The Surly Wench

Hipsters abound at Che's. This club fast established itself as a Fourth Avenue institution. The drinks are cheap, the chairs are sparse and the music is loud

Che's also features local art on the walls, though usually of a more surreal bent. If you're looking to grab a quick, quiet drink, this is not the place. On any given night Che's will be moderately crowded to absolutely packed. In fact, on Saturday nights it is nigh-impossible to find somewhere to sit.

The upside is that all of the constant milling about leads to a great party atmosphere, even if you have to scream at the person next to you just to be heard. If you can make out the music over the patron's roar, you'll note that it is mostly excellent.

61 E. Congress St.

Heart-Five's railroaded design makes it an ideal club layout. In the front there is a gated area that opens up on the street. The front door leads to the dance floor and bar. Towards the end of the bar there is a hallway that leads to pool table and another tiny room with a few cushy chairs.

Besides an uncontrived nightclub atmosphere, Heart-Five offers DJs and dancing every night of the week. The club hosts regular theme nights, including a hip-hop night and an electro/dance-punk night. These are usually accompanied by some decent drink specials. The clientele varies with what music happens to be playing that night, but the constant music and dancing assures that you can have a good no matter when you happen to show up.

340 E. Sixth St.

Plush has undergone quite a facelift in the last year. The bar and music venue used to feature mostly local or small, unknown national acts and an unremarkable atmosphere. Recently, however, the interior was redone and note-worthy indie bands have been plentiful.

Plush's interior is done up in a sort of faux-tacky 70's style. Basically, it looks as if designers with good taste were trying to imitate designers with bad taste. Fuzzy walls, carpeting and backlit waterfall tableaus dominate the scene.

The drinks are pretty much average. Something about the club seems to make patrons want to order martinis because there are a disproportionate amount of them served. The bands are usually top-notch even if the sound and stage area aren't.

Besides the sometimes muddy and flat sound, there are rarely drink specials, which can be enough to make or break a bar. Perhaps the quasi-retro decorations lend a false atmosphere of decadence and drink specials would seem out of place.

The Surly Wench
424 N. Fourth Ave.

The Surly Wench is the newest addition to Fourth Avenue. This bar just went up in the last few months and has been fairly crowded on the weekends. Because it's so new, lots of drink specials have gone up, making it worth your while to pop in for curiosity's sake.

The big downer is the décor. Upon first entering the place, something struck me as slightly off. Then I looked around: red lights lining the bar, metal motifs and fake graffiti in the bathroom. The Surly Wench looks like a bar in a movie designed to look like a bar. It's kind of unsettling.

Other than that, local bands have started to pick up gigs there. There is also pool and pinball, which is always a draw when you're drunk and tired of talking to the metalled-out ex-bass players that populate the place.