Alumni sure to remember Green Dolphin

By Norma Greer

Special to the Arizona Daily Wildcat

Violence, neglect, misuse and neighborhood change have written an epitaph for another Tucson landmark. The Green Dolphin is gone, making way for NYC, a bar and dance club at the same location.

"The Dolphin had beat-up old tables, peanut shells on the floor and that has its appeal. It was a neighborhood place where you could go for a beer and a shot," said a lone customer at NYC, identifying himself only as Blake. "Now you can even get a margarita," he said in a low tone.

Established in the early '60s, the Green Dolphin was "the best bar in Tucson for years," said Ted Bair, former owner of the Manhattan Club and present owner of The Buffet.

On St. Patrick's Day, Bair said, college students would be lined up outside at 6 a.m. to get in. "You've never seen anything like it," he said.

"Draft beer, colored green, was something like a nickel and would go up a nickel or dime every hour. I don't know how many kegs they used to go through," he said. "They also had green pancakes for breakfast and a corned beef and cabbage buffet later in the day. The party would last for two days and the place was always jammed."

A remnant of a past St. Patrick's Day celebration remains. A faded green shamrock fills the intersection by the building. One can still make out some of the names painted in while around the border of the leaves.

Mark Kimble, associate editor of the Tucson Citizen and a 1974 graduate of the University of Arizona, described an ad for the Green Dolphin appearing the March 15, 1974 issue of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

"It was a cartoon of a dolphin that looks more like a mackerel, drinking beer and smoking a cigar."

Kimble said it was "sad" the Green Dolphin closed.

"It was such a unique name," he said. "I'm not sure if it came from the color of the building or (if) the color of the building came from the name."

The southwest corner of Park Avenue and East Tenth Street looks more respectable now than it did in June when the transformation began, said neighbors across the street at Tucson Unified School District.

The former nondescript, green exterior of the Dolphin is now pristine white stucco trimmed in gray.

The Park Avenue side of the two-story building has foot-high, neon letters forming the name of the new establishment. Behind them on a white wall is stencil-like painting of the New York City skyline. The wall facing East Tenth Street has an identical sign.

"I drove by the corner a couple of weeks ago," said Gary Gaynor, Tucson Citizen photographer. "I couldn't believe the Green Dolphin is gone.

"Alums always went back," he said. "They'll probably wander around town for hours looking for it and just figure they got themselves lost, it has been there for so many years."

Bryan A. Vicentini, 21, NYC manager and bartender, said he worked at the Green Dolphin before it was sold. Before the remodeling, he said, the huge open room that now has the new curved bar was separated by walls and booths, the ceiling was lower and it was very dark green, of course.

Vicentini said there was a lot of trouble during the last few years. Constant fighting by neighborhood gang members who frequented the bar killed business. In February of this year, there was a drive-by shooting involving two UA football players.

More than a year ago, the Green Dolphin owner was found shot to death in the place. After a lengthy investigation, Tucson police officials ruled the death a suicide.

A UA alumnus said getting a drink in the '60s at the Dolphin was not easy if you were underage.

"Pat, a big ol' blond bartender who worked there for years, was tough. Once she carded John Rawlinson, who was a cop at the time," he said. "He showed her his badge and driver's license, but he didn't have a 21st birthday card to prove his age. She said, 'You can get those kinds of badges in gum machines' and threw him out."

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