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Where Crazy Meets Comfy : Saloon-style fun at Chester Drawer’s.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Entering Chester Drawer’s Inn the other night, I immediately thought of the Oar House, that jampacked, pitchers aplenty, somebody-barfed-on-my-leg bar by the bay in Santa Monica.

That saloon on pre-gentrified Main Street looked like an overstocked furniture warehouse. So does Chester Drawer’s. It’s crammed with the oddest mix of stuff: a huge giraffe’s head hanging from the ceiling, wagon wheels, a 15-foot-tall bozo with a plaster burger.

The crowd’s much the same too: no one over 30, no one overdressed (not even close), no one overwrought about nothin’.

You might have guessed that both clubs are part of a chain, according to Chester Drawer’s management, and all that cobweb-covered paraphernalia came from movie-prop warehouses bought by the chain’s former owner.

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The 30-year-old Chester Drawer’s, in fact, was the chain’s first outlet. Obviously, it’s found a bankable format.

On Fridays, there’s a line out the door at least until midnight. The dance floor stays overcrowded nearly until closing, and it’s impossible to cruise the floor’s perimeter without body contact.

The lure appears to be free admission, danceable Top 40 tunes from the past three decades and a dress code no stricter than shoes and clean clothes. This is the kind of place you can feel comfortable in your favorite faded jeans. The humble, woody interior looks like an old family pizza parlor.

On the floor, lots of women dance nonstop in groups. Who needs a partner? Lots of guys, conversely, feel no compunction to do anything but stand there all night and stare, one hand in pocket, one grafted to the draft.

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Sundays and Mondays are quiet, but the deejay keeps things moving every other night. Wednesdays are all-disco.

Drink specials are best on Tuesday, when well and call drinks and draft beers are $1 all night. On Thursday, 32-ounce draft beers and Long Island Ice Teas are $2.50. The kitchen serves inexpensive burgers, pizza, salads and appetizers until 10 p.m.

A couple of significant differences distinguish Chester Drawer’s from the Oar House, which is still operating. The dance floor is bigger in Costa Mesa, and nobody seems even close to throwing up. Actually, I’m not saying that was a problem in Santa Monica; it just always seemed imminent, what with all the rowdy slurping and loud toasting. But maybe that’s just a girl thing.

BE THERE

Chester Drawer’s Inn, 179 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa; (714) 631-4277. 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat. and Sun. No cover.


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