It’s a minute before half past nine on a Saturday night in downtown Eugene’s Barmuda Triangle. Four bartenders dressed in sleek black stand at their posts behind the long, narrow bar at Starlight Lounge. The bar stools have been removed, the limes have been cut and the saltshakers are at the ready.
Ding! Ding! Ding! The clock strikes 9:30 and bartender Jonna Threlkeld taps the ceremonial brass bell with a stirring spoon. Patrón Hour has begun; crowds line up at the wooden bar and the cool blue agave nectar flows down rows of shot glasses.
Night after night, Starlight Lounge hosts Patrón Hour from 9:30 to 10:30 pm, selling shots of the clear stuff for $3 a pop (rather than the regular $8) and they have been since the bar’s inception five years ago. Starlight General Manager Brian Hafdahl says they’ve tried other specials, like Jaeger shots and Goose and Juice, but their customers never took to it. “We switched immediately back to Patrón,” Hafdahl says. “We’re really proud to have it. It put us on the map.”
And the people have spoken. Local imbibers have voted Starlight Best Happy Hour every year since 2008 in EW’s Best of Eugene. But Hafdahl says they’ve had accusations over the years that the deal is too good to be true. “People think the Patrón is fake because it’s so cheap,” he says. “It’s real Patrón Silver.” Starlight would be shut down if it weren’t, he explains. “If you can’t taste it, you don’t deserve to drink it!” bartender Autumn Omogrosso chimes in from behind the bar, a bulbous Patrón bottle glimmering in his grip.
Hafdahl estimates that they sell more of the tequila than any other bar in the Pacific Northwest. Not into the whole licking-your-hand, throwing-your-head-back and wincing-in-a-way-that-only-tequila-can-elicit thing? The bar also has specials on Crater Lake Vodka martinis and their exclusively Oregon beers on tap. Either way, don’t worry, the ringing in your ears is not just in your head.