By Dr. Ink
It’s 8:30 a.m.
I run into an acquaintance yards away from the entrance to the Alibi, which is where I’m heading. We chat for a few minutes and he beats around the bush before asking outright why I’m going into a dive bar at this hour of the day.
“It’s for a newspaper column—research,” I tell him with a chuckle.
He appears skeptical. We say goodbye.
Fast forward to 9:10 a.m.
I’ve managed to throw down nearly half of my “big dipper.” That’s Alibi speak for a 23-ounce glass of either Bud or Bud Light. I’m drinking the latter, a $6 feel-good deal that has me wishing it was Friday night. The suds also give me a hankering for a $6 heavy shot of something like Jameson Irish Whiskey.
But I refrain because it’s a workday. And it’s frigging morning rush hour out there. Not even when vacationing on some tropical island have I ever imbibed on alcohol this early in the day—let alone before eating even a morsel of food for breakfast.
The Alibi ranks among San Diego’s oldest dive bars. I used to frequent the place years ago, at night, when the atmosphere is notably carefree and festive.
Yet I found the morning vibe to be surprisingly upbeat, albeit with far less customers compared to the evenings. I counted eight people at the bar, and a few on the back smoking patio. Conversation was flowing, and jukebox tunes by The Beatles, Steve Miller Band, and Bob Dylan were playing at a reasonable volume.
“We have awesome patrons in the mornings,” said bartender Christy Sons, whose welcoming personality can dismantle your morning grouchiness in no time.
But not everyone is fresh out of bed. A quiet-type guy sitting next to me drinking $4 vodka and sodas revealed he finished work at 4:30 a.m. before grabbing breakfast and then a couple of cocktails at The Lamplighter in Mission Hills. That bar opens at 6 a.m., two hours before the Alibi.
Another customer sitting nearby said he came straight off his graveyard shift. “This is my happy hour,” he said while sipping away at a big dipper.
Silhouetted by the morning sunlight beaming through the front windows was a guy named Joe. He kindly bought everyone at the bar a round of drinks. I was told later he’s one of the owners.
“There’s always a good cross section of people on my shift,” Sons added. “It’s industry types, workers on their days off, vendors, and retired people—the reason you come to a dive bar.”
The Alibi stopped serving food many years ago. And now I needed some. So when looking up from my empty beer glass, I happened to notice a McDonald’s commercial on one of the flatscreen TVs. It was promoting two Egg McMuffins for $4. Lo and behold, there are golden arches directly across the street.
With a moderate stagger and notebook still in hand, I was there within minutes. It was a radically enjoyable morning.