Best new bar

The Layover

Sometimes a bar is just a bar. You stop in for a drink after work, or spend an evening with friends playing foosball and polishing pitchers of Guinness. Sometimes a bar is really a club — a pick-up joint, a Saturday-night destination, a place to be seen. And sometimes a bar is neither or both; it's a community lynchpin, a gathering point, a 21st-century Grange hall. That's the Layover. The place opened in Downtown Oakland late last year, and a few minutes spent inside leave little doubt about it; emanating from the softly upholstered furniture, the richly colored linens, the modern-exotic lighting, and the casual seating, the vibe coaxes patrons to relax, to share, to open up — even with strangers. The drinks are neither low-brow nor high-brow; they exist to lubricate social interaction, not dominate it. Regular events include DJ nights, live music nights (featuring members of Rogue Wave, Crown City Rockers, and more), and Layover Comedy Night, where comedians of various stripes test their mettle before accommodating, though nonetheless real crowds. You'd never know — or maybe you would — from the blank street sign out front, featuring only a glowing neon cocktail glass: This place is the real deal.

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