Where Pool Is for Playing (and Watching)


I’ve seen all kinds of weird stuff at bars and clubs.

Mechanical bulls to please line-dance types.

A guy in a loincloth who posed on a cross as Christ all night to please God knows who. (Anybody remember Power Tools in downtown L.A.?)

A body piercer with a cot for piercees.


But now maybe I’ve seen everything: a pool hall with a hot tub.

Picture it. You walk into Shark’s Sports Cantina expecting and getting pool tables, dartboards, cigarette smoke and loud music. But about the first thing you see is a large, round, roiling whirlpool bath. It’s like walking into work and finding a Clydesdale in the lobby.

Weird. Even weirder is the woman standing knee-deep in the bubbling water selling discount beers and ringing up sales on the tub-side register.

Of course, Ms. Budweiser Whirlpool is wearing only a thong bikini. And, boy, does she sell a lot of beer, and guess who is doing most of the buying.


Indeed, this year-old venue has seemed intent on attracting men, who appear to outnumber women in greater proportion than at most clubs.

Ten full-size pool tables (why is pool mostly a guy thing, anyway?) and motocross on the TV monitors, not to mention Ms. Whirlpool, helped draw the lopsided population on a recent weekend. Sure you’ll see women working the cues and dominating the dance floor, but they’re in the minority.

At least they have been. Co-owner Liz Cottingham says she’s going to put a guy in trunks in the tub too. “We need more girls in here,” she says.

Decor-wise, the cavernous, two-story club (not to be confused with Costa Mesa’s Shark Club) isn’t necessarily masculine. It’s gone tropical, with ersatz coconut palm trees suspended from the high ceiling, fluorescent sharks and fish airbrushed on the walls and lots of bamboo. Corrugated metal also abounds, magnifying the feeling that you’ve entered an Army cantina serving burgers ($4.50 with fries) in paradise.


Happily, you don’t have to dress up for Eden, either. Guys wear white T-shirts, although women favor velvet, the fabric de rigueur this fashion season. Also, if disco is your idea of kingdom come, then come on Fridays and Saturdays, when Gloria Gaynor reigns. (Live rock and blues bands play Tuesdays, Harley night. A KIIS-FM radio DJ spins Top 40 on Thursdays. Mondays are reserved for football; no dancing.)

Gaming is best early in the evening. During a recent Friday happy hour, with well drinks and call beers going for $1 and $2 respectively, only four of eight upstairs pool tables were taken.

By the way, leave your swimsuit at home. The hot tub is for Ms. Whirlpool and other employees only.


* Shark’s Sports Cantina

* 14988 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, in the rear of a strip center just off the Santa Ana (5) Freeway.

* (714) 552-3410.

* Monday through Friday, 4 p.m.-2 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 6 p.m.-2 a.m.

* Cover is $5 after 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.