The Air Conditioned Lounge
4673 30th St. (Normal Heights)
Happy Hour: 4 to 8 p.m., daily
Come On Get Happy! | Dr. Ink
The façade used to be incredibly plainer at The Air Conditioned Lounge, where hipsters and jocks unite inside a 1960s-style playpen replete with a James Bond poster wall, a sunken seating area and a little VIP room in back that features a dancing pole.
“Before you couldn’t tell what it was from the street,” said a regular neighborhood patron, referring to the old, featureless signage that simply read, “air conditioned.” Now, fresh paint flanks a large, open window in front that lets in fresh air and afternoon sunlight while an angular blue-and-white sign hanging above boldly identifies the place as a lively watering hole.
Daily happy hour caters to drinkers who couldn’t give a damn about overly designed cocktails and obscure craft beers. But the choices are plentiful nonetheless, with basic well drinks, margaritas, Bloody Marys and about eight different drafts available for $4 each. In addition, “shots of the moment” are periodically announced via a flat screen monitor behind the bar. They’re essentially shooters concocted with a few ingredients rather than straight-up liquor, selling usually for a mere couple bucks.
The well bargains apply also to several mid-level liquors such as Jack Daniels, Absolute vodka, Jameson Irish whiskey and Tanqueray gin. You call it. I chose the latter mixed with minimal tonic water while a few friends swigged from tapped pours of Racer IPA and Red Trolley Ale for the same price. If you must, the beer lineup also includes Bud Light.
With unpretentious drinks come no-attitude bartenders, probably the friendliest and most down to earth in town. One of them, named Chad, was quick to point out that nearby Sabuku Sushi offers a 15 percent discount off meal bills if you bring in your drink receipt. The offer comes in handy considering that Air Conditioned doesn’t serve food, although as Chad further explained, customers are permitted during happy hour to tote in munchies from other places, whether it be subs, tacos or coq au vin, for that matter. Just be sure to pack your own forkware.
The lounge also features a DJ booth in the middle of the room with a small dance space in front of it. Both were active during our visit. For any place that spins Depeche Mode before sunset, I’m in.
It’s back to the basics, much like happy hours were a generation ago when bars stuck to straightforward mixed drinks and non-dizzying selections of draft beer.
Customers are free to bring in their own food during happy hour.
Expect to save $2 to $3 on drinks compared to their regular prices. Also, your bar receipt is good for a 15 percent discount at Sabuku Sushi around the corner.
The two guys running the bar during our visit were fast and approachable.
Four hours daily allows plenty of time to get your buzz on while tapping into the laid-back Normal Heights social scene along the way.