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Going Extinct: 6 a.m. Bars

A tour (cut short) of SD's dives


bottles of liquorYou can pretty much use your fingers to count the number of San Diego bars that still open their doors at 6 a.m., taking the earliest advantage to beckon customers, even if it's kind of a weird time to shoot darts or crank up the jukebox. It's a shrinking fraternity. Let's see: There’s the Star Bar in downtown, the Lamplighter in Mission Hills, Lucy's in Ocean Beach and the Silver Fox and London’s West End in Pacific Beach...

A few more are likely scattered here and there, but you get the picture.

Nunu's, a Hillcrest bar, used to open at 6 a.m. everyday, but it stopped doing so on weekdays about a year ago. It now opens at 10 a.m. The bar used to attract a fair number of retired fisherman, but their numbers have dwindled said John Watson, who’s worked at the bar for 28 years.

At the end, “we were losing money,” he said.

The Arizona Cafe in Ocean Beach used to open at 6 a.m., but it was sold a few years back, refurbished and now opens at 11 a.m. Lucy's is the last remaining Ocean Beach bar to open at 6 a.m., said Karl, the morning bartender. You can get $5 Bloody Mary's and free popcorn, he said. At London's West End, some people just come in for coffee, said owner Tom McMillin. "They all know each other," he said of the morning crowd. "They mingle. It's fun." He sees some night shift workers, such as nurses, come in. It's their happy hour, he said.

But there's not as much manufacturing shift work in San Diego as in year's past, which was sort of the point of of 6 a.m. bars to begin with. On weekends, well, it gets a bit more hectic at these bars because the party people, not ready to settle in just yet, hit the joints.

The Waterfront in Little Italy is a bit different than the other early-morning bars because it also serves breakfast. So the biggest challenge is finding servers, said Chad Cline, one of the owners. They need to get there at 5 a.m. “I've always thought about cutting that shift out because of the hassle of staffing, but we got regulars that would find and kill me,” he joked.

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