More Than Just Drinking


THE BAR, THE PUB, the club—call it what you will, but the universal name of the game will always be liquor, wine, beer, alcohol. That’s why we go: to drink, and unless your local bar is where everybody knows your name, you’d better come hat in hand if you don’t plan to palm a pint.

Sometimes it can be a drag to be dry in a watering hole, so for all you DDs out there—the Designated Drivers and those who Don’t Drink—here’s a short list of Sacramento bars that cater to all crowds with a variety of games and activities.


Drink at Kupros’ beautifully ornate bar or treat the two-story house like your favorite neighbor’s place and kick your feet up on the outdoor balcony. For bar events, Kupros has it all: open mic (Tuesday, 8 p.m.), quiz night (Sunday, 7:30 p.m.) and live music (Friday and Saturday, 9:30 p.m.). The real allure for gamers, though, is the independently organized group, Board Games and Beers, which meets every other Monday at 7 p.m. We’re not talking Monopoly (although you can bring whatever board you’d like to play) but games you’ve probably never heard of: The Settlers of Catan, Ticket To Ride and “old standbys” like Coup, Codenames, Red7, Monikers, Deep Sea Adventure—the list goes on.

1217 21st St.; (916) 440-0401;


Is this a bar or an arcade? Of all the spots on the list, you could certainly walk into Coin-Op and never notice they even served beer, for all the blinking lights and electronic beeps and bops. True to its name, Coin-Op Game Room has more than 50 classic arcade cabinets and a dozen pinball machines—playable with quarters. From Pac-Man, Street Fighter and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the Simpsons, Coin-Op has all the classics from your youth, and manager Peter Riccobono encourages people to organize their own game-specific tournaments. For any gamer, this digital dungeon is already a paradise, but it transcends to the heavenly every last Sunday of the month when the entire arcade (except pinball machines) becomes playable for free. For all you Luddites and geezers with two left thumbs, Coin-Op also has large-format Jenga and Connect 4—and a deck of Cards Against Humanity—behind the bar.

908 K St.; (916) 661-6983;


De Vere’s Irish Pub is an eclectic, homey spot that in the early afternoon can feel more like your grandpa’s study, complete with whiskey and vintage prints of old nautical ships. Take a novel from the bookshelf and read in a corner. “We’ve got everything from kids books to novels, as well as a bunch of board games: Connect 4, Apples to Apples, Checkers, Battle of the Sexes,” says manager Diana Adam. “People can stay all day if they want, and we’re not going to ask them to give up their table.” De Vere’s also hosts pub trivia every Monday at 7 p.m., running steady with a strong following since de Vere’s opened in 2009. Soccer fans are welcome early weekend mornings to cheer for their favorite trans-Atlantic Premier League teams, including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.

1521 L St.; (916) 231-9947;


Sacramento has no shortage of fantastic gay bars or spectacular drag queens, but if you’re looking for an alternative to the pomp and grandeur of Faces or Badlands, check out their intimate, divey neighbor, The Depot. Every Wednesday night, The Depot hosts a queen-emceed trivia game; other drag-related events are held throughout the week. Challenge the bartender to a game of Yahtzee or shark your friends at one of the pool tables. If you’re looking for a dose of nostalgia, you can zone out on the constant stream of ’90s music videos and take yourself back to that simpler time when MTV actually stood for something.

2001 K St.; (916) 441-6823;


This underrated dive bar has had a long and friendly relationship with the punk and metal scene, not only hosting live music on Friday nights but also karaoke every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 10 p.m., with open-mic stand-up comedy at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday. According to bartender Jandy “Barwench,” On the Y sometimes has more off-the-wall events, including mud wrestling. Along with the classic Centipede arcade, On the Y also stocks Jenga, checkers, chess and backgammon, plus has two pool tables and six dartboards. Come Sunday night for a buy-in-pool, winner-take-all style tournament, or join the Sacramento Valley Darting Association every Wednesday to practice your aim.

670 Fulton Ave.; (916) 487-3731;


This is almost your prototypical sports bar that packs out on a UFC match night, with all 20 TVs demanding the crowd’s attention. But if you’re not looking to watch the fight or the game, Republic has its own vintage arcade games including Time Crisis, Marvel vs. Capcom and Millipede, as well as Skee-Ball, electronic basketball, air hockey and pool. Bartender Anthony Butler admits the place gets pretty packed, and “most of our crowd is pretty young,” about mid-20s. “So we’ve got large-format Jenga and Connect 4, but we also do a beer pong tournament every week on Wednesday at 10 p.m.” It’s not a nondrinking game, per se, but if you’re ever missing those fraternity days and itch for the game but not the drink, you could probably swap out the beer in your cup for something less spirited.

908 15th St.; (916) 822-5152;