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Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. – PJ’s Village Pub and Sports Lounge
Buzz Bakker paces the length of the wooden bar at PJ’s Village Pub and Sports Lounge, refilling drinks, greeting customers by name, and occasionally pausing for a cigarette. Village of Oak Creek residents line the bar and sit at high tables with burgers, fries, and pitchers of beer while the jukebox plays Creed, Dixie Chicks, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s in-between time, says Buzz. Happy hour, from 3-6 p.m., Mon.-Fri., is over and the younger crowd arrives around 9 p.m.
“People come here to eat good food and drink 15 beers on tap,” says Buzz. “It’s an honest-to-God local crowd. We’re also listed as a Harley-Davidson owner’s friendly bar so we have lots of bikers up from Phoenix on Saturday and Sunday mornings.”
Buzz, who wears a Hawaiian shirt, earrings, and a ponytail, has his PDA at the ready (the bar is Wi-Fi capable) to look up the recipe for the odd drink request. He’s always ready with a quick one-liner or bawdy story, like the one about the five 20-something girls who danced on the bar one night as Buzz quickly moved glasses and plates out of their way. “What can I say, we had a great DJ that night,” he says with a sly smile.
The pub is large, with six TVs, three pool tables, dartboards, and video poker. The smell of stale smoke hangs in the air – at least until the May 1 ban. A mustachioed-mannequin in a ball cap that reads “Got Beer?” sits by the door – Buzz calls the dummy “PJ” and says inebriated patrons mistake him for a real person.
Debby Kish sits at the end of the bar with her husband, finishing dinner before chalking up her cue at a pool table. She’s lived in Sedona for ten years and comes to PJ’s several times a week. “It’s comfortable here and the people are friendly,” she says. “We’ll meet friends here, play pool, listen to music.”
Just after 9 p.m. young motocross riders from Cornville walk in, covered in tattoos and dressed in long black shorts, black hoodies, and black ball caps. The older crowd glances up from their beers but don’t flinch when the guys play rap and punk music. Shane Chriswell and his friends head for the dartboards. He comes to PJ’s about once a week and says the nightlife in the Verde Valley can be “boring unless you find the right places.”
“This is the best bar,” he says as he waits his turn, dart in hand. “The TVs are big, it’s not cramped, you can relax and talk because it’s not loud. It’s an older, calmer, and more mellow crowd; it’s laid back and fun.”
PJ’s Village Pub and Sports Lounge – 40 W. Cortez Dr. in the Village of Oak Creek 928-284-2250; www.pjsvillagepub.com. TVs, jukebox, pool tables, dartboards, video poker; call for entertainment schedule.
Thursday, 8:55 p.m. – Martini Bar
Walking into the Martini Bar in West Sedona is like slipping into a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin: The bar is long and narrow and the walls and ceiling are painted various shades of blue. Four tables and a few leather chairs line one wall while the bar fills up most of the space – glass shelves behind the bar are stocked with bottles in all shapes and sizes, containing the promise of relaxation after a long day’s work or courage to finally make a move on your date. Don’t count on doing either tonight, though – the band Radio Dogma is playing in a little corner at the far end of the bar and, though the sign says it’s an acoustic set, the foursome are loud.