THE DRINK NATION IS A FREE RESOURCE FOR FINDING EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT DRINKING IN YOUR LOCATION

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

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:
 
Things No One Asked For: Prosecco Donuts

Things No One Asked For: Prosecco Donuts

In case you were tired of drinking Prosecco the regular way, a New York bakery has introduced a new way to imbibe it: a Prosecco donut....read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Aug 8, 2017
This New York Winery is Producing a Rose-Inspired Gin

This New York Winery is Producing a Rose-Inspired Gin

Can't decide between a gin & tonic and a glass of rose? Thanks to Wolffer Estate Vineyard's newest gin release, you don't have to choose....read more ›

by The Drink Nation Aug 8, 2017
Since Humans Aren't Creative Enough, Robots May Be Naming Our Beers Soon

Since Humans Aren't Creative Enough, Robots May Be Naming Our Beers Soon

Research scientist Janelle Shane decided to take matters into her own hands - well actually, the hands of robo...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Aug 8, 2017
SPONSORED
Guillermo del Toro and Patron Tequila Collaboration Release

Guillermo del Toro and Patron Tequila Collaboration Release

Guillermo del Toro, Mexican writer, designer, and director for films such as Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy, is working with Patron Tequila on a new expr...read more ›

by Alexander Frane Aug 1, 2017
Things No One Asked For: The Wine Necklace

Things No One Asked For: The Wine Necklace

Drinking wine can be such a hassle. First, you have to hold the glass in your hand like some kind of animal. Then, if you want to do something with ...read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Aug 1, 2017
Beer Brand Aurosa Makes Beer 'For Women,' Women Say They Already Have a Beer, and It's Called Beer

Beer Brand Aurosa Makes Beer 'For Women,' Women Say They Already Have a Beer, and It's Called Beer

Throw away your beer stash ladies, because a Czech beer company has made the only beer we will need. The compa...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Aug 1, 2017
Great American Beer Festival Tickets Go on Sale August 1-2

Great American Beer Festival Tickets Go on Sale August 1-2

The Great American Beer Festival will take place in Denver at the Colorado Convention Center Thursday through Saturday, October 5-7....read more ›

by Carrie Dow Jul 26, 2017
According to Wall Street, Millennials Are Choosing Wine Over Beer

According to Wall Street, Millennials Are Choosing Wine Over Beer

The American financier Goldman Sachs downgraded the stocks of the Boston Beer Company and Constellation Brands this week due to 'sluggish' beer sales ...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Jul 25, 2017
A Bunch of Entitled Kids of Big Beer Opened Up Their Own 'Craft' Brewery

A Bunch of Entitled Kids of Big Beer Opened Up Their Own 'Craft' Brewery

If you like your craft beer to lack any kind of authenticity, but make up for that with boundless pretentiousn...read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Jul 25, 2017
There's an Underwater Winery in Croatia & It's as Amazing as it Sounds

There's an Underwater Winery in Croatia & It's as Amazing as it Sounds

Croatia is now home to a unique underwater winery run by Edivo Vina, making it the perfect spot to live out yo...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Jul 25, 2017
SPONSORED
View all Articles

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

Close