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:
 
A Swedish Brewery is Coming Out With a Shower Beer

A Swedish Brewery is Coming Out With a Shower Beer

After an absolutely dismal 2016, the new year is off to a wonderful start with a runner-up for greatest beer-related invention ever: Shower Beer. ...read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Jan 10, 2017
New Tennessee Law Makes Way for High-Gravity Beers

New Tennessee Law Makes Way for High-Gravity Beers

Tennessee residents, rejoice: you can now pick up beers from your local grocery store with up to 10.1% alcohol - all the better to help put out the fl...read more ›

by Alexander Frane Jan 10, 2017
Miller High Life, The Champagne of Beers, Now Has Champagne Bottles

Miller High Life, The Champagne of Beers, Now Has Champagne Bottles

Just in time for the New Year, Miller High Life, AKA 'The Champagne of Beers,' has recently launched full 750 ...read more ›

by Alexander Frane Jan 4, 2017
SPONSORED
Rick Astley is Teaming Up with a Danish Brewery to Create His Own Beer

Rick Astley is Teaming Up with a Danish Brewery to Create His Own Beer

Rick Astley, known for his infamous 1987 hit song 'Never Gonna Give You Up,' isn't the first name that comes t...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Jan 4, 2017
Drinks on a Diet: Tips for Healthier Drinking

Drinks on a Diet: Tips for Healthier Drinking

How do you incorporate a night at the bar into your new lifestyle without adding extra pounds? We have answers....read more ›

by Jen Killius Jan 4, 2017
Take a California Bar Crawl at Redondo Beach Pier

Take a California Bar Crawl at Redondo Beach Pier

With the weather getting colder and snowier up north, our thoughts wander to warmer climates....read more ›

by Carrie Dow Jan 3, 2017
Fifty Thousand Dollars Worth of Cognac Was Swiped from a Liquor Store

Fifty Thousand Dollars Worth of Cognac Was Swiped from a Liquor Store

Last week in Monterey Park, CA, two thieves broke into a Chinese speciality grocery and made off with more tha...read more ›

by Alexander Frane Dec 28, 2016
A Bar Owner in England Has Banned Ugly Christmas Sweaters for the Holiday Season

A Bar Owner in England Has Banned Ugly Christmas Sweaters for the Holiday Season

Ugly Christmas sweaters are a holiday tradition, with parties and events centered around them every December, ...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Dec 19, 2016
AB-InBev Has Acquired Karbach Brewing Co.

AB-InBev Has Acquired Karbach Brewing Co.

AB-InBev continued its mission to acquire and absorb more breweries in early November when it acquired Karbach Brewing Co....read more ›

by Alexander Frane Dec 13, 2016
Things No One Asked For: The Chug Card

Things No One Asked For: The Chug Card

Having trouble shotgunning your beer like a normal bro? Maybe you need your very own Chug Card....read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Dec 13, 2016
SPONSORED
View all Articles

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

Close