I suppose it’s a sign of the times (or, more accurately, my age) that nobody I know pre-drinks at home before hitting up the bars downtown anymore. For most of my 20s, this was the only way to reasonably afford a night out in what might be one of the most godforsaken expensive cities in Canada. Finding cheap places to drink in St. John’s is no small feat.
Nowadays it’s more about grabbing a cocktail at The Gypsy Tea Room after work, and then going home to bed around midnight when the youngsters in their crop tops come out to play even when it’s minus 30 outside and there might actually be polar bears somewhere in the harbour.
Or you could do it all, like me. Whatever.
This is a guide in the works. In my quest to re-love St. John’s again this year (it’s really hard during sprinter — spring/winter), I’ve spent a considerable amount of time dining and drinking my way around the city. It explains why I’m so poor despite working two full-time jobs and not even really having much of a social life to begin with.
I’ve also just thrown in generally fun places throughout the week.
Please leave me a comment if you know I’ve forgotten something, because I most certainly have.
Sunday tends to be industry night for a lot of St. John’s folk, and although it’s not nearly as busy as the other nights, Adelaide is always on the go. It’s my favourite place in St. John’s at the moment. This chic oyster bar may look like NYC hipster heaven, but sit at the bar, order a pint of Port Rexton, and soon you’ll have about 10 new friends. So, it’s not cheap. But like whatever. If you’re drinking on a Sunday night you probably have worse problems. (Like me.)
Again, not a cheap night out. But once Adelaide shuts its doors around 1AM, the clientele tends to spill over into Christian’s. Christian’s has become my go-to bar over the past few years. I think it’s the transition pub between drunk grinding at The Martini Bar and dressing up all classy like and having martinis at Blue on Water. Sometimes decent music; always a good crew. I left my purse there once, and sometime returned it. It was a few weeks ago.
As far as I know, there are no real drink specials here. BUT they’ve had a Groupon ($26 for $50 worth of booze) since like, ten years ago. My roommate treated me to this Groupon once and then magically there were jello shots.
YellowBelly is St. John’s only craft beer pub, so it’s kind of a must-do thing. Not only do they have a really fantastic $5 pint happy hour from 4-7PM EVERY day, but their brunch menu includes $3 mimosas and $6 Caesars with Jameson whiskey. Slam a couple of those back before 3:30PM and you’ll be fine for work the next morning.
Muggy Monday at Shamrock City
Shamrock City’s sticky floor and questionable clientele makes it one of my lesser loved destinations in downtown St. John’s, but I gotta say…it’s a damned good time there EVERY single night of the week. I’ve never had a bad time here, and the music is great. Doesn’t matter if it’s Sunday or Tuesday or Friday afternoon. Monday, bizarrely, is one of the best nights out, ever. On Muggy Mondays you can purchase a litre stein of beer for $8 — the price of most pints in other bars. All you need is two before you’re brave enough to shuffle around the dance floor to some trad music.
Not only does YellowBelly have an awesome Happy Hour, but they also have $6.75 cocktails at the UnderBelly speakeasy on Mondays. The UnderBelly is the best part of the bar, anyway.
Tavola is one of the higher end restaurants in town, but their Tuesdays night specials are epic. $5 bowls of mussels, AND $5 pints or a glass of white wine. All night. No limit. Go on, be free!
Toonie Tuesday at Rob Roy
Live music and $2 select beers at Rob Roy. For more info about Rob Roy, please refer to Thursday.
Same as Tuesday’s deal, but substitute mussels with onion rings or wings!
Likely my favourite bar in the city, their Wednesday night deals are really good. Pints for $6, AND live music! It’s typically a bluegrass theme, and there’s cover ($10). But it’s worth it.
Every Wednesday, it’s $20 burger and pint of Quidi Vidi draught beer at Bernard Stanley’s. I hear these burgers are legendary, too. Incidentally, I’m writing this on a Wednesday. Hm.
Gypsy Tea Room
Not to be outdone, the always swanky Gypsy Tea Room has $6 drinks from 4-8PM and $6-8 small plates of food.
3-4-5 Rob Roy
Gentle jesus in the garden, I’m still amazed this is a legal thing. But it is, and it’s delightful. Rob Roy’s 3 beers for $5 specials every Thursday night is the stuff of sloppy legends. If you’re 30 like me, going here is questionable at best. But if you’re also poor like me, then why the hell not? I remember one time sitting in a bathroom stall listening to a girl consoling her friend outside because it was her 19th birthday and she was SO OLD.
Anyway. There’s a cover but the prices are really worth it. The deal is from 10PM to 1AM. Wow I know way too much about this.
UPDATE: Not entirely sure this is still a thing.
Yeah, so, same concept as above but it sounds slightly edgier because a dozen of beer is actually cheaper than buying it at the liquor store. I spent most of my very early 20s at this place, and now I can’t step inside without feeling slightly dizzy and full of regret. BUT their deck is one of the extremely rare deck gems in the city, so if you’re blessed with a beautiful Thursday afternoon, head there and get a bucket of beers.
Gypsy Tea Room
Hallo! An upscale spot that has a FRIDAY happy hour special?! 5-7PM drink specials.
I’ve maybe been inside Turkey Joe’s like twice in my entire life, but they have a pretty swell rooftop bar in the summer months and clearly they have some sort of regular clientele because the venue has existed since before I arrived in St. John’s 11 years ago. They often have weekend DJs with $3 beers and highballs. Let that sink in for a bit.
JAG Hotel – Exile
So, I had full paragraphs written up for JAG but WordPress malfunctioned and I lost it all, so…*copy and paste* $9 JAG Cocktails 4-9 Friday
This is a club, not a bar, but if you feel like high heels and bling, check it out. Usually there’s no cover until 12:30AM and they have cheap shooters before then.
JAG Hotel – Exile
$5 Pints on Saturday 4-9PM
Greensleeves is an Irish pub with a surprising number of beers on tap, and their Happy Hour is 4-6PM everyday. There’s a really excellent martini bar upstairs called Loose Tie as well. It doesn’t have drink specials as far as I know, but it’s a good place to run to when your life is falling apart.
This is my favourite Happy Hour. Slam back a few pints of Wexford Wheat between 4PM to 6PM in the main restaurant, and then move downstairs to the Underbelly to continue the 5pm-7pm happy hour there. (Or enjoy like a civilized person, whatever.)
Bernard Stanley’s actually has a whole slew of specials throughout the week, including TACO TUESDAY (!!!), and daily $5 pints and highballs from 4-7PM.
The Duke of Duckworth
This is my absolute favourite spot in downtown St. John’s for some unpretentious drink time. God, I’m so pretentious for saying that. Their happy hour specials change up daily, and occurs between 4-7PM.
JAG Hotel – Exile
$4 Molson Products 4-6pm and 10-12am Daily
Typically I’m not a fan of hanging out at the big chains, but on the other hand this is one of the few bars in town where there’s a late night Happy Hour during the last two hours before close. Plus, actually, it’s nice to stray from the typical George Street/Water Street scene sometimes. There’s actually a sweet range of cocktails/beers/spirits for $5-7, and each day has a special $5 drink. Sangria and Dark & Stormys for days!
The Ship Pub
This is THE live music venue where all the artsy folks hang out. They tend to have a daily special involving Jockey Club or something similar. You should probably go here.
The Merchant Tavern
The Merchant Tavern is expensive as all hell but I’m putting it here because I freaking love their bar and everything about this entire place. It’s just so goddamned good. Sit at the bar. You must.
Lottie’s is a hot mess BUT it’s one of the only places on George Street without a cover, so it’s highly recommended you do a Lottie’s Loop (a trek around the bar), purchase a White Russian, and then carry on. Probably to Trapper John’s to do a Trap Lap. Same concept.
What are you in the mood for?
Are you here literally just to get messed up, make out with strangers, and brag to all your bros about your wild night out on George Street? Then Rob Roy, Turkey Joe’s, Shamrock City, or Lottie’s are all great ideas.
Are you here to keep it mid-classy, but on a budget? Start out at YellowBelly or take advantage of the small plate offerings at one of the restaurants (Tavola, Fifth Ticket) before moving on to Christian’s, The Black Sheep, The Ship, etc.
Are you here for casual cocktails in a mature setting? The Merchant Tavern and Adelaide, always.