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Petty Officer 3rd Class David Babcock avoids putting holes in sailors who are piling through the door and into his dart’s flight path at Malt’s, a cozy basement bar outside Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.

Petty Officer 3rd Class David Babcock avoids putting holes in sailors who are piling through the door and into his dart’s flight path at Malt’s, a cozy basement bar outside Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Look both ways before you walk into Malt’s Bar. Otherwise you might get a dart in the eyeball.

It’s 7 p.m. on a Monday night and Malt’s is jumping. The music is loud, but the sound of raucous American laughter cuts through the White Stripes. It’s standing room only in the cozy basement bar.

Somehow David Babcock avoids putting holes in the Navy folk piling through the door into the flight path in front of the dartboard.

“I’ve had some practice,” says the U.S. Navy petty officer third class. Babcock throws darts on the Malt’s league team with the Japanese staff, he said. Malt’s is his second home.

“People know they can find me here,” Babcock said. “When I first arrived to Yokosuka in 2003, I toured around to a lot of bars. This bar has just the right atmosphere.”

Malt’s is a dart’s throw from Yokosuka Naval Base. Directions are simple: Cross the street outside the base’s main gate and head downstairs. For many Honch-goers, Malt’s is a first stop with its 500-yen happy hour. For others, it’s the last stop — the spot to get the last Jell-O shot before picking up a “stick dog” from the diner upstairs and lurching to bed.

“It’s like a neighborhood bar — there’s always someone to talk to and the bartenders are so cool,” Petty Officer 3rd Class Kristina Catuiza said, presenting her signature drink as evidence.

“They know that my favorite is an apple chu-hi with a pink straw — I don’t even have to ask.”

Malt’s is neither meat market nor booty bump. It’s neither fancy nor rough-and-tumble. In almost 20 years of doing business in the Honch, Malt’s has yet to host a fight.

But with a beer bong hanging from the ceiling and the bartenders’ encouragement to dance on the bars, it feels like a spot you might find in College Town, USA.

That’s no accident, said Malt’s general manager Tai Ishida.

“Almost 90 percent of our clients are American Navy, and we want them to feel at home,” Ishida said. “I’ve been to USA four times and probably went to 400-500 bars to research. Stealing ideas and bringing them back is my job.”

For regulars, Malt’s is “home away from ship.” The bar throws a Christmas party with swanky gift giveaways for the sailors who can’t be with their families.

“Service is the most important thing,” Ishida said. “We want people to have fun.”

As always, if you drink, do so responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.

Malt’s Bar, Yokosuka, Japan

Drink prices: All drinks 500 yen during 5 p.m.-9 p.m. happy hour, beers 500-650 yen, drinks 700-900 yen

Food: Available upstairs

Cover: None

Dress: Come as you are

Address: 2-1-B1 Honcho, Yokosuka, Japan

Phone number: 0468-24-7891

Web site:www.maltsbar.com

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