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Lowering the Bar: Where to Drink for Cheap (or Free!) This Week

Each week, former sf.myopenbar.com editor Allie Pape brings you her picks for the best places to booze on the cheap in SF. This week: bar runs, barbacks, and Barbie. Have an event coming up? Want to share a tip? E-mail her.

1. North Beach Bar Run: With thirteen bars participating, proceeds going to charity, and more $2 Miller products than you can shake a DT-addled hand at, this annual event is a great chance to explore the various Irish pubs, quasi-Italian wine bars, and Marina-aping hot spots of North Beach. Besides the aforementioned Miller tsunami, there'll be plenty of fruity shots (including something called the "Obamarama") and even the occasional sangria or bottle of Trumer. See the full list, and buy your $6 advance ticket, here. (Saturday, September 19, 4 pm, beginning at NorthStar Cafe, 1560 Powell St., North Beach.)

2. Swap Not Shop: Given our propensity for avoiding the sticker price on drinks, it's not surprising that LTB also likes to go shopping on the cheap-- and there's no better place to do that than a clothing swap. If you can handle the minor shame of stripping down to your skivvies for a public try-on, $5 and a bag of your own discards will net you access to a cornucopia of other people's clothing. Not only is it green, but there's also some deal-sweeteners: $1 drinks are available while you shop, and the homeless clothes at the end of the evening will be assembled into a "Fugly Fashion Show." (Saturday, September 19, 3-5 pm, at Homeygrown, 2200 Wood St., Oakland.)

3. Bar Back Olympics: Unloved and underpaid, a barback may not mix your drink, but (s)he is responsible for keeping your glasses clean, your favorite brand well-stocked, and that cosmo you spilled from sticking to everyone else's shoes. The good people of Fernet-Branca are paying tribute to the humble barback by holding a competition that tests speed, accuracy, and stamina in everything from keg-changing to order-filling, with plenty of free libations and music for onlookers. Barbacks, register on-site at 7 pm; the rest of us should RSVP here and get ready for a good time. (Wednesday, September 23, 8:30 pm, at Ruby Skye, 420 Mason St., Union Square.)

4. Altered Barbie Wine Tasting: Looking for something a little less high-adrenaline? The 7th annual iteration of the Barbie-art festival is a great way to see some radical new work over a free wine tasting. This year finds Barbie as the key component of a pair of conjoined twins, a bulimia play set, a stock car, and even Hamlet (pictured above). Find new ways to express your resentment of this pneumatic plaything, and remember that revenge is a dish best served fermented. (Wednesday, September 23, 7 pm, at Shotwell 50 Studios, 50 Shotwell St., Mission.)

5. Laszlo Happy Hour: Foreign Cinema's companion bar is built around a neo-USSR theme, so it's not surprising that they've got giving drink to the proletariat down pat. Until the surprisingly late hour of 9, patrons can enjoy $2 Trumers, or $5 vodka cocktails featuring the wares of (who else?) Stolichnaya. In Soviet Russia, bar likes you! (Daily, 6-9 pm, at Laszlo, 2526 Mission St., Mission.)