Name of Bar: Uptown Lounge
Address: 3126 State Street
Location: North State between De la Vina and Las Positas
Days/Hours: Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday from 6 p.m. to midnight
Happy Hour: Tuesday through Saturday 4 to 7 p.m., Sunday and Monday all day
Known As: An upscale lounge for thirty-somethings eager to escape the pandemonium of lower State
Quote from the Bartender: “We’ve progressed little by little … . We’re a bar of many persuasions.”
Patrons: Attractive young men and women in their thirties or thereabouts, wearing trendy fashions and uptown swaggers
Special Draw: Thursday is Ladies’ Night, half off all drinks!
Notable Decor: A poster of The Most Interesting Man in the World leans out from a corner frame
Discovery of the Night: Complimentary limo service for a safe ride home — just pay for the tip!
Bar Food?: Yep! Brick oven pizza and finger food
What’s to Come: More of a dance atmosphere
Open Since:Fiesta 2012
My experience: “Uh oh, we’ve got a Leo,” played the woman who checked my card at the door. “Actually, I’m a Cancer.” Was it worth correcting her? “Oh, right! Come on in!” I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get used to California’s obsession with the zodiac. In fact, I swore I wouldn’t. I ordered a gin and tonic, and it came in a chilled glass. I rested my arm on the marble bar to relieve the heat of a summer bike ride.
As I took a look around, I must admit, I felt a bit out of place in my Chucks and leather jacket. I watched the flatscreens cycle through their slideshows of announcements. Quiz Night on Monday, Open Mic on Tuesday, Ladies’ Night on Thursday, complimentary limo service. The bartenders wore dress shirts and vests, and a poster of The Most Interesting Man in the World hung un-ironically from the wall. With its club music, unattended baby grand, and ostentatious silver drink trays, I figured this must be the place where all the bros come once they graduate from Tonic and Sandbar. A place where the irresponsible could ride home in style. A place with a designated mating night. The frat boys of Santa Barbara had discarded their jerseys, it seemed, for the effortless style of white V-neck tees. Was this the kind of place where you might order Ciroc? I turned to confirm my suspicions with the patron to my right, but he painted for me a much more complicated picture. Mr. Jeff Brown, it seemed, was somewhat of a bar historian.
The Uptown Lounge replaced Don John’s, which fittingly had sat next to a medical marijuana clinic. The Lounge opened on Fiesta of 2012 and had since grown little by little into an upscale bar that caters to young people looking for a swanky hang. Looking around once again, I could see its genealogy, it’s coming into being. Artifacts of its maturation. The grand piano, though unplayed, was not just for show; rather, it represented the opportunity for intrigue, romance. When this bar grows up, it wants to be a piano bar, it seemed to say. The flower vases, though filled with common enough flowers, served to soften and make sweet. Like the carnation pinned on a stiff tuxedo jacket two sizes too big. A huddle of men in baseball caps and polos stood around the pool tables under the gaze of framed MMA shorts and gloves, remnants of a stab at a sports bar feel? There were small round tables and comfy chairs for more intimate nights out, and they’d worked with the long dramatic curtains to create havens of romance amidst the booming juke. But what was a sippy cup doing on the table? A woman with a black micro-mesh shirt and dark straightened hair strode past the bar to the back patio. I followed her.
As I crossed the threshold, a waft of vanilla hit me. From the firepits? Then the lingering aroma of tobacco, not unpleasantly mixing with the sweet night air. Elegant wrought iron fixtures vibrated gently to the bass. A girls’ night out lounged around a flame, content to laugh and shriek as the occasion warranted. I came back with some coworkers on Sunday afternoon, and we sat right there, next to the brick oven. We sipped cocktails and took luxuriant draws from menthols, as older women are wont to do. This day, they played classics from the ‘70s and ‘80s. The Uptown Lounge was anything but a one-trick pony. I was glad I knew about this place.