Jeremy Ogul | Raising the Bar
If you had to choose one word to describe Pecs, it would be “laid back.”
Wait — that’s two words.
Regardless, this gay bar could not care less about what you’re wearing or who your friends are. Pecs straddles the no-man’s land between North Park, University Heights and Hillcrest, and attracts an eclectic clientele.
“Everybody drinks here — bears, cubs, straight people, gay people,” said Eddie Monteiro, who has been working the bar at Pecs since 2000. “Most people who come here come back — let’s put it that way.”
Many come for the drinks, which are exceptionally cheap and stiff. The bar offers happy hour every day from noon to 7 p.m. at rock bottom prices — $3 domestic beers, $3.75 for all other beers and $4.25 for well drinks. Pitchers of domestic beer are available for less than $10. Prices rise only marginally after 7.
Many others are attracted by the judgment-free zone they find at Pecs, which occupies a windowless gray building on the corner of Alabama Street and University Avenue.
One thing that sets Pecs apart from other gay dives in the city is the owners’ willingness to evolve to suit the times. Acquired by Sara “Sue” Buettner and Carl “Ted” Buettner in the 1980s, Pecs has opened up over time, both physically and figuratively.
Pecs opened its back patio about 11 years ago, providing some much-needed breathing room to the sweaty crowds on weekend afternoons and evenings. Earlier this summer, Pecs installed its first-ever window, in the roll-up garage door style that is now in vogue. The new window pissed off some of the regulars, who lamented the loss of an especially dark corner that facilitated groping and other activities more suitable for dark corners, but others seem to be enjoying the view onto the patio and the ability to enjoy some San Diego sunshine.
“The owners like to keep developing,” said bartender Brian. “They don’t sit on their laurels and say ‘Well, this worked for the last 10 years. Let’s keep doing it.’”
The bar’s social identity has continued to develop, too, becoming less of a bear bar over time and more of an “everyone and everything” bar. It’s still more of a bear bar than almost any other in town, except perhaps The Hole, but overall there is less segregation because there are other ways to find what you’re looking for now, Brian said.
“It’s been such a cultural shift,” he said. “If people want to have sex, they order in.”
As a result, people find it less imperative to go to a bar based on who they might find to sleep with, he said. Instead, they’re more looking for a place where they can go out with a group of friends and enjoy themselves.
Another thing that sets Pecs apart are its two pool tables, which seem to always be in play.
Dan, a New Orleans native who has frequented Pecs since moving to San Diego 20 years ago, said everyone on the competitive pool circuit looks forward to playing at Pecs. With cheap drinks, a friendly atmosphere and — most importantly — tables that are positioned to minimize conflicts between pool cues and walls, what more could a team ask for?
Hanging out at Pecs and asking people for their thoughts, I heard more than one person compare it to Cheers, the University Heights bar I profiled in my last column. There are indeed many similarities between the two: the neighborhood feel, the cheap drinks, the lack of polish. But the real difference between the two is size. At Cheers, you can hardly have a conversation without half the bar overhearing you. At Pecs, more than 100 people could squeeze in and there would still be room for pool and drunken dancing.
And if you’ve never been audience to drunk, middle-aged, overweight manly-looking gay dudes clumsily dancing to Beyoncé after midnight, you’ve obviously never been to Pecs.
—“Raising the Bar” focuses on a different LGBT-oriented bar in San Diego every month. Do you have a story to tell? Write to Jeremy Ogul at firstname.lastname@example.org.