I love dive bars. I want my bar to have a classic look. Dark, dingy, medium volume music, 5-6 simple beers on tap, medium-shelf liquors, and a well-worn/authentic atmosphere. This is the kind of bar that makes me feel the most comfortable and where I can truly be myself. When asked to define what a dive bar is I usually have trouble. It’s similar to Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of porn: “I know it when I see it.”
Every country has their own unique style of bar/pub. Of course each county borrows themes and styles from other countries, but each culture creates their own specific style. I believe a lot can be ascertained about a culture’s personality from studying their preferred watering holes. When it comes to America the iconic watering hole is a simple bar which clearly has one purpose: drinking. Many bars in America try to portray this image when in reality the purpose of the patrons is anything besides drinking.
There is a time and place for loud music and dancing within a boisterous crowded atmosphere. But the majority of the time when I’m heading to a bar; I want to take a seat, have a beer/whiskey, talk to some friends/strangers, listen to good music and just chill out. The best place to do this is at a dive bar.
A true dive has to be popular amongst locals. If a bar is popular amongst locals that tells me a few things. It is not overpriced, it has good bartenders/staff, it has good drink, and good music. Music is very important when judging a bar. A juke box or touchtunes is a plus. I want a mixture of good music (for me I prefer country/rock) but more importantly it has to be loud enough to clearly hear but not too loud that you can’t talk over it in a normal voice. The bar should have billiards or darts (maybe shuffleboard but you rarely find that in a true dive), but should never have a DJ. The purpose of attending the bar is to drink and the bar owner understands that. For a dive bar to be at its best you should feel comfortable going solo, plopping yourself down at the bar, and having a drink. The bar should be empty some nights, decently crowded other nights, but NEVER packed. The crowd that wants an overly packed bar wouldn’t be found at a true dive. And the decor has to be genuine and simple. It should have a local flare but not a faux local flare. Dive bar’s attract authentic people
I love attending dives and they are becoming harder and harder to find. When you find a dive that you like cherish it, they’re few and far between. America has it’s roots buried deep in frontier culture and nothing screams America like a frontier style bar. Here’s to hoping that the masterpiece that is the true American dive does not fade away.