Phil's was a cozy neighborhood bar prowled by an assortment of characters who were just as colorful as its murals depicting an array of funky blues artists. We'll likely long for the spot just as much as we've mourned such bygone bars as Newman's or Emerald Lounge. You see, while dive bars are becoming a particularly endangered species in the downtown area, back in the day there were plenty of down and dirty places to have a drink or perhaps a pickled egg or two.
We've decided to raise a toast to the ghosts of some of Phoenix long-dead dive bars and have assembled a list of some of the best spots that are now a part of legend.
Before it was torn down in 2007 to make way for ASU's Downtown Campus, the Newsroom was a place to get soused in sleazy style. The place opened at 6 a.m. and served up a mean plate of biscuits and gravy, as well as plenty of cheap brews and booze to hepcats, sleazy glam rockers, and blue-collar regulars. Another fixture at the Newsroom was its bearded owner Pete, who was as ever-present as the vintage bowling game near the front door. You can find him haunting the bar these days at the American Legion Hall near Grand Avenue, spinning yarns as long as his facial hair about the old days.
No discussion about downtown Phoenix dives is complete without mentioning this tiny gem, which was located below an old flophouse across the street from the Chase Bank building. About as big as your average bathroom, this cozy watering hole was a favorite of New Times staffers, office workers, barflies, and plenty of other hardcore drinkers. The bar at Newman's took up most of the floor space, allowing just enough room for a single row of bar stools and not much else. According to a Best of Phoenix award we gave the place back in 2000, Newman's was "a throwback to a bygone era -- when bars were designed for hard-core drinking and slurred story-swapping." Amen to that.
Many a local artist and musician shed tears when this basement bar and restaurant closed down in 2008. Situated below ground and bathed in red light, Monroe's was where live jazz bands like Sonorous played on the weekends and downtown cubicle drones came to drown their sorrows. Drinkers often had trouble negotiating the flight of stairs down to the bar, which led to some perilous -- if not downright amusing - situations when folks tripped while trying to enter the place.
Few places in downtown oozed as much old school Phoenix cool as the original location of Chez Nous at Seventh Avenue and Indian School Road. Amina Uben's superfly lounge was often compared to the bar in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, and with good reason, as it was a huge slice of retro cocktail style. It's chintzy-yet-chic gold-and-black wallpaper and the garish (and perpetually non-functional) lava rock fountain were the stuff of legend, and its darkened tuck-and-roll booths were where folks could enjoy a drink or perhaps some make out sessions. Uben eventually moved Chez Nous to the old Fat Cats on Grand, but wasn't able to recapture the spirit (or the crowds) of the old joint and closed up shop in 2009.
Whenever the Bikini Lounge happened to be packed, hipsters and artists tended to head down Grand Avenue to this ramshackle hole in the wall, where punk and rockabilly bands often played and PBR and other bargain brews were available. It had a rather nasty reputation as a drug den, and eventually closed in 2007.
This East Phoenix establishment owned by the former proprietors of the Rogue had everything going for it: dank-yet-dope dive décor, PBR on the cheap, killer street cred, cool bartenders, and the occasional live show by local punk bands. It eventually transmogrified into hipster dance spot Glam, which ultimately went D.O.A. itself.
Currently known as Kat's, this long-dead spot was located to the equally late Mason Jar and was where bands playing the neighboring music venue came to drink before the show, as the drinks were cheaper. It was also a big hit with pool players, who shot some stick on its tables and worked the jukebox. It's owner Tony Ligouri was sadly murdered by a robber in 1998 and the joint eventually went belly up.