We all need a place to go after work to blow off some steam, regroup with friends, and suck down a few glasses of “medicine,” whether that comes in the form of a well-crafted micro-brew, a $10 martini, or a fine, overpriced Cabernet. As a connoisseur of Bellingham’s rich and varied nightlife, I have arranged my favorites into four categories: Dive Bars, Live Bars, Pubs and Breweries, and Classy Joints.
Part 4: Bellingham’s Best Dive Bars
- The Beaver: My #1, all-time favorite dive bar. The Beaver Inn has everything you could you want in a dive bar. Low ceilings, brick walls, really cheap beer, darts and a pair of pool tables. Don the Bartender (who can generously be described as “ill-humored”) has been there, 86-ing troublemakers, since the dinosaurs roamed the Earth. The only bartender I’ve ever known who will ban someone “for life”…a fate suffered by more than a few dear friends of mine over the years. No live music…but they have a popcorn machine. And it’s FREE!!! 1315 N State St. Bellingham, WA 98225 (360) 733-3460
- The Up&Up Tavern: My second favorite dive bar of all-time. Back in college (when they had $1 pitchers of Busch Light! Mmmmm…), I think I spent more time at “The Up” than I did in class… The vintage sign claims the place is “World Famous”… I can’t say for sure, but it seems reasonable enough. Unfortunately, the Up&Up has been remodeled and renovated in recent years, making it kind of nice inside…and half the size of its former self (long story). However, they still have two pool tables, a huge selection of beer, cheap and micro, and one of Bellingham’s largest outdoor seating areas, a nice perk in the Spring and Summer. 1234 N State St. Bellingham, WA 98225 (360) 733-9739
- Cap Hansen’s: Small and crowded, like every good dive bar should be, Cap’s has, in my humble opinion, THE best jukebox in town. Lots of Tom Waits, Pixies, and Willie Nelson… They have a good selection of beer on tap, including the essential PBR. The tall cans of Oly are a nice bonus… They have occasional live music, but the place is so small that the bands take up most of the room. Cap’s is a great place to warm up before a show at the Nightelight, located next door. 209 E Chestnut St. Bellingham, WA 98225 (360) 733-0878
- The Waterfront: Home to bikers and about 300 neon beer signs, The Waterfront is lit to the point of being obnoxious…but then again, so are the patrons. (see, I just made a pun on the word “lit”…I know…clever) No live music, but they’ve got pool, pull tabs, and Rainier on tap. If you like to drink during the day, you can get a nice view of Bellingham Bay, upon which the Waterfront sits, hence the name. Located next door to the Chuckanut Brewery. 521 W Holly St Bellingham, WA 98225 (360) 676-1755
- The Cabin: The little brother of the Waterfront, The Cabin is old-school dive. They’ve got a couple of pool tables and lots of pull-tabs, and a surprisingly nice bathroom. Have a couple of beers here before a show at the Wild Buffalo, just a block away. 307 W. Holly St. Bellingham, WA (360) 733-9685
- The Ranch Room: Dive bars don’t get darker or funkier than The Ranch Room, nestled in the back of the Horseshoe Cafe, in the center of downtown Bellingham. They’ve got the cheap beer, but it’s the potency of the cocktails that really defines the atmosphere…that, and the huge murals of cowboys and wagon-wheel chandeliers. The jukebox selection is excellent. No pool tables or live music, but that’s OK. The Ranch Room is better suited to being a hide-out during bad weather, obnoxious college kids, and just about anything else that ails the mind or body. 113 E Holly St, Bellingham, WA (360) 734-0380