Alex Ruther is an opinion columnist for Mustang News and journalism senior. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

Once you’re 21 you’re no longer limited to house and frat parties, and instead can experience a new social scene in SLO: the downtown bars. There are so many bars to choose from and hop to throughout the night, so it can be a little overwhelming at first. Each bar has a different vibe, plays different music and has different drinking environments. Here’s what you can expect when going to the bars downtown.

Bull’s Tavern

You’ve probably noticed a lot of Cal Poly students walking around in Bull’s clothing merchandise. It’s one of those staple clothing pieces that most Cal Poly students own by the time they graduate. 

Bull’s is a good bar for their stiff and substantially sized drinks for a decent price, and a great bar for those who want to stand or sit while chatting with your friends. They also have a really fun shot called the Bull’s sweat that is a must do for 21st birthdays or just showing an out-of-town friend a good time. While Bull’s doesn’t have a dance floor or DJ they do have a jukebox that people can pay to play songs out of and also some games in the back like a hunting game and darts. 

They’re also known for their fantasy bartending league where two partner teams go against each other and try to make the most drinks during the night. The competitions run through each quarter and spaces fill up super fast, so for those who want to sign up make sure to follow their Instagram to see when sign ups open.  

Frog and Peach Pub

A line forms outside Frog & Peach Pub in 2019. Credit: Diego Rivera / Mustang News

Don’t let the long line scare you, it usually goes pretty fast! Frog and Peach is a pub for those looking for a social environment over a dance floor. On the weekends Frog and Peach usually offers live band music which will typically come with a cover fee at the door – so bring some cash.  

Bar-goers can drink inside where there are booths and seats to sit around and chat or there is a nice back patio to hang out at as well. In the back you can also find fun games like darts and other quarter-operated, pay-to-play games. 

My favorite activity drinks to get here are the Irish car bombs, which is a pint of Guinness beer and you drop or pour a shot of whiskey and Bailey’s into the pint of beer and chug, and also the Guinness race to see who can chug Guinness the fastest. These drinks also make for super fun group inclusive 21st bar crawl drinks as well!

Mother’s Tavern (Motav)

My friends and I have a rule for Motav and that is if the line is to or past Bubblegum Alley it’s not worth it. Once you make it through the line Motav is a really fun bar for those looking to dance. The music is played by a DJ, so the music is a little different each night depending on what DJ is playing, but it typically resembles what you hear at a frat party. There is an upstairs which may look super alluring and exclusive because there is a red rope and a line, but if you are looking for a dance floor don’t go upstairs. The upstairs vibe is a little more relaxed with lounge seats and an upstairs bar with typically a shorter line for drinks, and there might be a small group of people dancing in the middle of the room. The line to get drinks is typically shorter upstairs. Bring cash out with you if you want to go to Motav because they randomly do cover charges on the weekends, and I also keep a picture of my ID in my phone photos to avoid the non-student cover charge on “college night.” 


Buffalo is one of the smaller-sized bars downtown but resembles the vibe of Motav with similar DJ music and people covering the room either dancing or grouped to the side talking. They also have TVs that play fun cartoons during the night like re–run Spongebob episodes. 

The Library

The Library is also a smaller-sized bar right next to Buffalo that typically has a DJ who plays R&B, hip hop and rap music. I don’t go to the Library very often, but when I do go there it’s for their Statue of Liberty shot race, which is a 3-part shot race where you and your group of friends drink each shot and then stack each finished glass on top of your head and whoever stacks all three empty glasses on top of their head first wins. 

The Mark 

The Mark has a special place in my heart since my 21st bar crawl. The Mark is a great place for those who want to dance or hang with friends and chat. Inside there’s a large dance room with a DJ playing music that ranges from EDM, throwbacks, hip hop and rap. Outside there’s a large patio area with heat lamps, tables, chairs, TVs playing sports games and occasionally corn hole is set up for people to play. There is usually a cover charge here as well but they accept Venmo so no need to worry about finding cash. 

A fun bar crawl drink to get at the Mark is the Sexy Alligator, if you go early enough in the night the bartender might even pour it for you in a fun martini glass! 


Mclintock’s is probably the only bar you will hear country music downtown at except for Bull’s, so anyone who loves country music this bar is for you. This bar is usually more of a bar to stand around and talk with your friends at instead of dancing. Typically the line isn’t very long so it’s always a great bar to go to on busy nights like grad nights or alumni weekend when none of the other bar lines are moving very fast. The drinks are on the pricier side, so definitely plan to pregame elsewhere if you are drinking on a budget. 

Honorable Mention: Creeky Tiki 

Currently Creeky Tiki is shut down as of now, but Creeky is the go-to pregame spot where people can buy their infamous AMF buckets which can feed 2-4 people (depending on the night you’re going for). They also offer shot-skis for those who enjoy taking shots in creative ways.