Ballantine Beer Leaderboard
THE DRINK NATION IS A FREE RESOURCE FOR FINDING EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT DRINKING IN YOUR LOCATION
2 Gingers Header

What Makes a Dive Bar a Dive Bar? 14 Clues to Look For

by Tim Gonzalez on Jan 10, 2013 in Culture
What Makes a Dive Bar a Dive Bar? 14 Clues to Look For

The dive bar has long been a staple of the American drinking scene, but what makes a dive a dive? In  a nutshell, it’s a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall whose only saving grace is cheap booze, and plenty of it. Recently, there’s been a trend of places trying to achieve that “dive bar feel” with lighting and decor, but they’re missing what it really takes. Here’s how to spot the fakes and zero in on the real deal.

You're not in a dive bar if...

1)…You pay more than $5 for a beer. You go to a dive bar for cheap beer and specials, and if anything costs more than a fiver, they’re doing it wrong.

2)...There’s not at least one person who’s obviously been sitting at the bar since 11 AM. The guy who looks like he woke up at the place and hasn’t left? The mascot. 

3)...Credit cards are accepted. “Cash Only” is the official motto of the dive bar.

4)...There’s a food menu. A dive doesn’t have space for a kitchen. If you’re hungry, look for bags of chips and dirty water dogs. 

5)...The bartender asks what kind of whiskey you want. The default is whatever’s in the well, and you’ll get that unless you plead otherwise.

6)...The bartender flirts with you. Their job is to provide you with alcohol and be paid for it. They don’t care if you like them or not.

7)...The bartender asks you “What’s the matter?” Dive bars aren’t places to be noticed. They’re for blending into a crowd and being alone.

8)...There’s a different crowd every weekend. Dive bars rely on regulars who visit as part of their daily routine. (Exception to the previous rule: if you’re a regular, the ‘tender will notice when you’re feeling down.)

9)...The alarm on the emergency exit is functional. It likely broke the last time the place caught on fire, and the health inspector is probably a regular.

10)...Your feet don’t stick to the floor. Real dives have a carefully curated layer of muck on the ground, a totally unique fruit of years of hard partying (and its after effects).

11)...The lights are bright enough to read by. That doesn’t stop the skinny performance-artist regular from having his nose perpetually buried in a book of poems, however.

12)...The layer of dirt on the jukebox is less than a quarter-inch thick.  And it’s definitely not a dive if Justin Bieber’s on the playlist. 

13)...You’re asked to pay a cover charge. Cover charges are for clubs and charity events. A dive is neither, though collections may be taken up to help regulars through hard times.

14)...There’s a line to get in. If a fight starts, there might be a line to get out, but that’s it.

Photo via Flickr user weeklydig

Recent Articles
Get Your Drink On with These Beer Themed Halloween Costumes
Beer Review: Valar Morghulis, the Latest 'Game of Thrones' Inspired Release from Brewery Ommegang
BARTRENDr App Causes Quite a Stir with Marketing Campaign
2 Gingers Below Features
From Around The Web

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
BARTRENDr App Causes Quite a Stir with Marketing Campaign

BARTRENDr App Causes Quite a Stir with Marketing Campaign

There's a new app making waves in the booze world, and not necessarily for its functionality. ...read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Oct 20, 2014
5 Spooky Cocktails for Your Halloween Party

5 Spooky Cocktails for Your Halloween Party

These devilish drinks are to die for. ...read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera Oct 17, 2014
Exploring The Bitter World Of Aperitifs and Digestifs

Exploring The Bitter World Of Aperitifs and Digestifs

The bitter world of aperitifs and digestifs is one rich with history, but one without much tradition in the U.S....read more ›

by Seanan Forbes Oct 14, 2014
SPONSORED
Perennial Funding - rectangle
Top 20 Drinking Quotes of All Time

Top 20 Drinking Quotes of All Time

Writers and musicians have a long, storied history with alcohol, and that intimacy with the bottle shows through in the memorable lines these artists ...read more ›

by Jenny An Sep 3, 2013
Beer Review: Ballantine India Pale Ale

Beer Review: Ballantine India Pale Ale

Arguably the first truly American expression of the India Pale Ale style, Ballantine's legendary IPA is back for the first time in decades ...read more ›

by Collin Keefe Oct 13, 2014
Beer Review: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project's Surette

Beer Review: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project's Surette

If you're looking for a mouth-puckering brew, Surette won't disappoint. ...read more ›

by Nathan Solheim Oct 13, 2014
7 Tips for a Safer Girls' Night Out

7 Tips for a Safer Girls' Night Out

Going out in the city should be fun for everyone. Here's a few tips to keep you and your friends safe and having fun this fall....read more ›

by Jessica Klein Oct 13, 2014
Colorado Roadtrip: Where to Drink in Salida

Colorado Roadtrip: Where to Drink in Salida

Here are some places where you can "DrinkSalida"...read more ›

by Carrie Dow Oct 13, 2014
Recap of the 2014 Great American Beer Fest (Photos)

Recap of the 2014 Great American Beer Fest (Photos)

Couldn't make it to Denver for this year's Great American Beer Festival? Click through our slideshow to make it feel like you were there....read more ›

by Carrie Dow Oct 9, 2014
Going to Nevada? Check Out the Budweiser of Brothels

Going to Nevada? Check Out the Budweiser of Brothels

Of course Anheuser-Busch sponsors a room at a legal brothel....read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Oct 7, 2014
SPONSORED
Read The Drink Nation Anywhere You Are
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close