It’s that time of year. Everyone who isn’t from here heads back home, and everyone who doesn’t have travel plans sticks out the few “winter” days in the Bay Area. The streets clear out, stores and restaurants post reduced hours, and only the locals and orphans remain to celebrate the holidays here in the East Bay. But after a day cooped up watching Netflix or yet another stressful family dinner (how come no one ever remembers the don’t-talk-politics rule?), you might find yourself struck by the urge to go out and get a drink.
Most places are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. So where do you go? Luckily, some neighborhood dives are here for us when we need them the most.
Downtown Oakland has become a hub for drinking culture in Oakland, but Telegraph Avenue on a holiday feels like a ghost town. But Radio (435 13th St.) waits for you just down the street. Its red-lit Chinese Hollywood disco decor translates perfectly for the holidays, and you can satiate your urge to drink and smoke in a dimly lit bar in the upstairs smoking room. Around the corner, The Golden Bull (412 14th St.) awaits with heavy metal-fueled holiday cheer. What better way to make a new holiday friend than over a game of pool with a cold beer in hand? And a few blocks down, the Ruby Room (132 14th St.) is known as the darkest bar in Oakland. The joint will be decked out with holiday lights arranged in the shape of a pentagram — in case you’re really looking to get away from all the Jesus stuff and back in touch with your pagan roots.
At the top of Lake Merritt, The Libertine (3332 Grand Ave.) is ready to welcome you with a fully-loaded cocktail menu. If you’re looking for a hot toddy to warm your spirits, this is the place for you. On the other hand, if cheap shots and good whiskey are more your speed, continue down the street to Heart & Dagger (504 Lake Park Ave.). There’s pool and pinball if you’re looking to just pass the time.
For those who don’t live near downtown Oakland, and have made the very smart decision to not drink and drive, there are several outlying options. In Emeryville, Oak’s Card Club (4097 San Pablo Ave.) is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. What better use for that Christmas money Grandma sent you than gambling it away on a game of high-stakes poker? The bar is open all night, the hofbrau serves until 11 p.m., and the game is always on.
The Missouri Lounge (2600 San Pablo Ave.) awaits all of South Berkeley with its quintessential dive-bar charm. Since it’s Christmas in California, the weather will most likely be pleasant enough to enjoy a drink on the patio. For those who like to celebrate the holidays with a pint of craft beer and a shot of rare, boutique whiskey from the biggest whiskey library in town, Acme Bar (2115 San Pablo Ave.) will also be open for business. And if cocktails are your game, The Hotsy Totsy (601 San Pablo Ave.) will be shaking up drinks all night long.
Last but not least, Aloha Club (952 Fruitvale Ave.) in the Fruitvale will also be open for the holidays. Known for having the longest bar in town, it is also a go-to dive bar for die-hard Raiders fans. You know what that means: If you couldn’t get tickets to the Christmas Eve matchup against the Colts or if you’re looking for a place to watch the New Year’s Day game, Aloha Club is the place for you.
So, if the holidays have you down, or you need to escape your family, or you just want to celebrate, come to the bar and have a drink with your neighborhood locals and orphans. This is by no means a comprehensive list — many bars’ decision to stay open will be contingent on staff availability and will be subject to change. In the spirit of the holidays, be sure to tip your bartender generously.