The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

85° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    52 years later, The Shelter is the perfect dive off the beaten path

    Kelsee Becker
    Kelsee Becker / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Shelter Cocktail Lounge, off of Grant and Columbus, offers customers a 1960s-themed dive bar atmosphere with their colorful decor, lava lamps, arcade games, and JFK memorabilia.

    Patrons sip cocktails in an atmosphere brimming with a Cold War feel. Lights in deep hues of red, blue and green create a low-lit atmosphere. A sign out front reads, “A go-go boot wearing, martini drinking, swanky, groovy lounge.”

    Located on Grant Road, just west of Columbus Boulevard, The Shelter Cocktail Lounge has become a staple in Tucson’s bar scene since it opened in 1961. While the area itself is expansive, dimly lit corners create an intimate setting and allow customers the chance to hide away.

    “It’s not a hoot-and-holler kind of place. You’re not going to encounter any problems here … I like to describe it as ‘dive bar chic,’ you know? It’s not a dirty, grungy, grimy place,” said Robert Johnson, who’s been a bouncer at The Shelter for six years. “I’ve seen people come here on dates because it’s quiet, the lighting is dimmed; they’re able to sit in a corner and just talk.”

    The Shelter brings together a varied crowd of people, pleasing those who lived in the ‘60s while also entertaining those still in college.

    “The Shelter provides a very unique atmosphere. You’ll come in and each time there will always be something you’ve never seen before,” said Jeremy Groch, who has been bartending at The Shelter for 10 years. “I’ve had people come in for years and even then they’ll point at something and be like, ‘Is that new?’”

    Posters of John F. Kennedy can be seen from almost every sitting area within the lounge. An old advertisement for air conditioner units spans across an entire wall. The Shelter will have you wondering if you’ve stepped into a time machine.

    The employees are knowledgeable and have warm attitudes about the lounge’s history, which helps newcomers fully enjoy the atmosphere of The Shelter. By allowing patrons to have a change of pace from the typical cramped college-drinking scene, the bar has all the perks of a dive, minus the uppity hipsters.

    The Shelter boasts happy hour deals from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Known for having the “Best Martinis” by the Tucson Weekly, locals flock to the lounge to take advantage of unheard of prices.

    “We have a whole list of fun flavored drinks,” Groch said. “They continue to bring us new liquors, including flavor infused liquors, so from that we create new lists.”

    The Shelter has survived decades of economic deficiencies and continues to provide a unique experience for its customers.

    “Have you ever gone out of town and come across that weird, quirky bar that quickly defines your trip by serving up good, cheap drinks and draws you in with interesting locals, good music and funky decor?” wrote a reviewer on Yelp. “The Shelter was that bar for me for my trip to Tucson.”

    More to Discover
    Activate Search