January's Nightlife Openings and Closings in Phoenix
Some of the vintage games at Cobra Arcade Bar.
Denizens of the Metro Phoenix nightlife scene got their drink on at few new bars that opened around the Valley last month. Some also got their game on at the same time over at the wildly popular Cobra Arcade Bar, which finally made its long-awaited debut in the beginning of January.
Elsewhere, the folks from Bar Rescue swung through town and worked their magic on the George & Dragon and Tempe’s Baseline Sports Bar, one of Toby Keith’s namesake honky-tonks got a reboot, another speakeasy-like joint popped up in downtown Phoenix, and a longstanding home to nightlife faded away.
Downtown Phoenix finally got the game bar it’s been craving for years when the long-awaiting Cobra Arcade Bar debuted during the first week of January. And huge crowds have turned out every weekend since them, armed with dollars bills to feed the change machine (which is loaded with Cobra’s custom designed tokens), get their hands on any of its 40 different classic arcade titles, and whet their whistles with any of the bar’s 10 game-themed specialty cocktails.
Old Town Gringos
The former Dos Gringos in Scottsdale, which closed late last year after 19 years as a party haven, got a new name, new owners, and a complete makeover that excised the beach bar vibe and replaced it with a sleeker and swankier look. Its still got a largely Mexican-style repast, and like many other eateries in Scottsdale’s entertainment district (El Hefe, The District, Urbane Manner, Bottled Blone, et al.), Old Town Gringos has been quite active after dark with DJs and dancing since it opened in early January.
George & Dragon
Admittedly, this is more of a reopening than an opening of an entirely new bar, as George & Dragon got a major cosmetic upgrade and sprucing up after Spike TV reality show Bar Rescue filmed an upcoming episode at the famed English pub along Central Avenue. The G&D’s color scheme was redone with blue and brown hues, its lengthy bar was refurbished and redecorated, more Union Jacks dot the place, and there’s generally less clutter. Unlike other spots featured on the show, which typically get a new name and concept, the George & Dragon thankfully kept its legendary moniker and Anglophile focus. As big fans of the place, we’ll definitely raise a toast to that.
Brick & Barley
Bar Rescue was also behind the transformation of Tempe’s Baseline Sports Bar into the renamed and redecorated Brick & Barley. The show's infamous host Jon Taffer and his crew of experts helped update the worn-around-the-edges watering hole, which sported a profane flair and was a favorite of local bikers, with better lighting and updated digs to create more of a warm and friendly neighborhood bar.
The Cowboys Saloon chain, which operates upscale country bars in South Florida, expanded into Arizona when it bought the failed Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar in North Phoenix, gave the place a major spit and polish, and made it the newest location. Like its sister spots, the latest addition to the Cowboys Saloon empire offers a down-home mix of drinking, dancing, and dining, as well as live country music and female employees in Daisy Dukes. A Peoria version, which is transforming the Toby Keith’s at 99th Avenue and Northern, is in the works.
Valley Bar received some competition in the speakeasy-style basement bar department when Melinda’s Alley opened up just across Central Avenue over the New Year’s weekend. Situated underneath the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel, it features a similar retro bent with vintage furnishings and ephemera galore, throwback-style cocktails, a clandestine atmosphere, and minimalist lighting outside its alleyway entrance (in this case, a single red lightbulb) to beckon in barflies.
The onetime home of legendary Valley nightclub Anderson’s Fifth Estate, which hosted local comedy club Stand-Up Scottsdale the last few years, is sadly becoming either an office building or retail space after its most recent occupant moved to a new location at the beginning of January. The property, which is situated near Fifth Street and Indian School in Scottsdale, served as a nightlife destination for more than three decades of under a variety of different name and focuses.
Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was the legendary dance club Anderson’s, which featured two separate dance floors and hosted a “who’s who” of local DJs, as well as many concerts. It went through a few identity changes in the aughts, spending a few years as the Vagabond Ballroom and the LGBT-centric Forbidden Nightclub before eventually winding up as Anderson’s again. Stand-Up Scottsdale took over in 2012 and served up yukks and the occasional dance night before proprietor Howard Hughes moved the comedy club to North Scottsdale.
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