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The Metro Bars & Clubs 2003 Guide
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Santa Clara

777 Lawrence Expy, Santa Clara; 408.241.0777

Hours: Wed-Thu 9:30pm-2am, Sat 9pm-2am, Sun 7:30pm-midnight
Crowd Age: 21 and up, with special nights for 18+ and 14+
Music: Dance music with special shows
Decor: Space-age discothéque
Signature Drink: Cosmo
Amenities: Themed rooms available for banquets and private parties

Seemingly airlifted to Santa Clara from the Island of Disco Moreau, Backbeat is as plush as they come, with wide-open dance spaces, lush banquettes, a pumping sound system and tons of beautiful people. If there's a strike against Backbeat, it's lack of consistency in its booking--call the hot line first.

3955 Freedom Circle, Santa Clara; 408.980.6400

Hours: Mon-Fri 5-11pm, Sat-Sun 10am-11pm
Crowd Age: 35-55
Music: No live music
Decor: Fancy restaurant
Signature Drink: Silk
Amenities: High tech dealmakers and 49ers

Mmm ... shiny. While this swank spot is really more restaurant than bar, its drink menu satisfies even the most weathered of imbibers. Crowded during the week, a bit more relaxed on the weekends, the dimly lit bar serves up such yummy treats as Berries and Bubbles, Van Gogh Raspberry vodka shaken with a splash of Chambord and topped with champagne.

Blinky's Sports Bar
3145 El Camino Real, Santa Clara; 408.241.3933

Hours: Daily 10am-2am, Fri-Sun 6am-2am
Crowd Age: 20s-40s
Music: Live music every Friday
Decor: Lounge-meets-frat-house game room
Signature Drink: Draft beer
Amenities: Pool tournaments Thu-Sat, karaoke Wed-Thu and Sat, darts, shuffleboard, pool tables,
big-screen TVs

At Blinky's, domestic beer is pulled with panache by one of the friendly bartenders--Greg, for example, who could outtalk a fastball. As its name implies, Blinky's is a denim-collar bar dedicated to the art of the game: namely pool, shuffleboard or televised sports. On Fridays the black-and-white checked dance floor fills up to the sounds of live bands. You could say that every time you blink at Blinky's, there's a new way to have fun--if you wanted to make a really dorky pun, that is.

4565 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara; 408.248.6244

Hours: Sun-Tue 11am-10pm; Wed-Sat 11am-11pm
Crowd Age: 25-35
Music: Contemporary jazz
Decor: Home-style Italian
Signature Drink: By-Th-Bucket Margarita in an 18-ounce glass
Amenities: TVs at the bar

Names can be deceptive--By-Th-Bucket is a lot nicer than it sounds. It boasts Italian murals, white-linen tablecloths, lots of burnished wood and a handsome glass-encased wine rack. Even the obligatory Raiders and 49ers football jerseys are tastefully framed. In addition to a well-stocked bar with specialties like the Three Mile Island and the Treesmacker, there's a great selection of seafood.

The Claran
1251 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara; 408.296.9558

Hours: Sun 9am-2am; Mon-Fri 11am-1:30am; Sat 9am-2 am
Crowd Age: 21-55
Music: Jukebox
Decor: Basement rumpus room
Signature Drink: Beer
Amenities: TVs, pool tables, darts, arcade games, pinball

For a bar located in the featureless Franklin Mall, the Claran is sure, ahem, "colorful." Barflies and college kids mix fairly comfortably on most nights. Any female under the age of 40 is likely to be asked, "What's your major, sweetheart?" by one of the aging fixtures at the bar by the end of the evening. While moderately low-key in the afternoon, things can get a little crazy--in a good way--on weekends, when the dancing takes off. And just it case it wasn't already obvious, this is not a good place to go on a first date.

The National Comedy Theatre, 3428 El Camino Real; 408.985.LAFF

Hours: Shows: Fri at 9pm, Sat at 7:30 and 9:30pm
Crowd Age: All ages
Music: The sweet sound of laughter
Decor: Mini-Coliseum
Signature Drink: Soda and beer
Amenities: Team improvisational comedy, played just like a sport

At 15, ComedySportz is now one of the longest-running improv shows in the South Bay. It's set up like a sporting event, with scoreboard, Astroturf, a referee, benches and the National Anthem. Improv teams compete while the audience shouts suggestions, volunteers for tasks and ultimately decides the winner. ComedySportz athletes play clean; the show is suitable for the whole family.

Hops Bar
2151 Laurelwood Rd, Santa Clara; 408.980.6400

Hours: Daily 5pm-midnight
Crowd Age: 35-55
Music: Live music last Fri of the month
Decor: Vegas, baby
Signature Drink: None
Amenities: Pool table

It's hard not to find value in a mirrored ceiling. After spending the day standing in line at Great America, hop (get it?) on over to the Biltmore Hotel and into this velour-covered bar/restaurant. The house staff is friendly, and the raised table area has a Vegas feel. Or maybe Reno. The last Friday of the month a live Caribbean band packs the dance floor and the bar.

The Hut
3200 The Alameda, Santa Clara

Hours: Sun-Fri 3pm-2am
Crowd Age: 21-55
Music: No live music
Decor: Corner bar
Signature Drink: Beer, beer, beer
Amenities: Pool, pinball, darts, drunken college students

The Hut is practically the alcohol annex of nearby Santa Clara University. Students flock to this cozy corner bar within stumbling distance of their dorms, and professors--and the occasional priest--have been known to pontificate from the bar stools on weekday afternoons. On graduation day, seniors and their fathers line up for shots before the ceremony, not a bad idea considering the sobering student loan payments they'll be making soon.

Martin's Lounge
1828 Main St, Santa Clara; 408.243.7976

Hours: Daily 6am-2am
Crowd Age: 21-80
Music: Jukebox
Decor: Sports Bar
Signature Drink: Beer, of course
Amenities: TVs, pool, darts, pinball, shuffleboard

Martin's may seem like it's been around forever, but no--it's only been about 60 years. There's good reason this friendly locals bar has made it so long. The bartenders know how to please without losing their dignity, and the clientele is there to relax after work, talk to people they've known for years and listen to music they recognize.

Tinker's Damn
46 N. Saratoga Ave, Santa Clara; 408.243.4595

Hours: Mon-Fri 3pm-2am, Sat-Sun 1pm-2am
Crowd Age: 21-35
Music: DJ, every night
Decor: Red, glowy gay club
Signature Drink: Long Island Iced Tea
Amenities: Pool, pinball, video games, jukebox

Believe it or not, dancing is a popular pastime at this comfortable gay bar. No, really. There's serious dancing. The younger hardbodies hit the dance floor, and the older folks with roving eyes lay claim to the bar stools and take in the action. There's a popular free barbecue on Sundays, but everything else is cash only.

Woodham Lounge
4475 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara; 408.296.9810

Hours: Daily noon-2am
Crowd Age: Late 25 and up
Music: DJ Wed, Karaoke Sun, Top 40 Jukebox
Decor: Local hangout
Signature Drink: Bud
Amenities: Pool, darts, foosball

Ladies night is on Wednesday at this neighborhood bar, and aside from dancing, the main attraction is Leo the bartender, variously described by patrons as "extremely handsome," "extremely gorgeous," and "a real ladies' man." It's probably worth a visit just to meet this guy. On Tuesdays, there's no Leo, but all domestic beer and well drinks are two bucks from 9 to midnight.

Metro Bars & Clubs 2003 Features

Five Terrifying Minutes of Fame: Friends don't let friends sing, "Dude Looks Like a Lady" ... and other karaoke tips.

Caffeine Nation: A list of coffeehouses--the cream of the crop.

Thanks, Designated Driver!: An appreciation, and some tips, for the nondrinker.

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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From the June 19-25, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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