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The Slow and Painful Death of the Dive Bar

Dive bars have soul. A dirty, discomforting soul.
Photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans via Flickr

Stop it. Stop what you're doing. Can't you see that you're hurting us? We've been coming here for years—well, not here of course. Sure, we've been coming to this building, but ever since you claimed ownership, it's all changed. Remember the good times? Back when it was that other place, the good place? Before you bought it. Before you ruined it. Before you renamed it something along the lines of an "eco friendly neighborhood pub SERVING IPAs ONLY, Bring Your Kids!" You sick fuck. Just because you call it a dive bar doesn't mean it's a fucking dive bar.


Dive bars have soul. A dirty, discomforting soul. Imagine a less-cute Tom Waits—what's that? Yeah, Ron Perlman does look like a less-cute Tom Waits. Imagine him. Dive bars are Ron Perlmans, face like cauliflower, breath akin to an ashtray. Trust me, shhhh, just shut up and trust me. You can't fake your way through this one. You have to earn that worn and weathered skin through smoking and poor choices. By the way, the best poor choice would be to allow smoking.

A proper dive bar doesn't beckon us in with false promises. This isn't Vegas, hell, it ain't even Reno, so there's no need for gimmicks. The problem with new signs is that they're based on trends, and trends are, by definition, fleeting. A good dive's exterior should look like it's survived a nuclear attack and has the chops to go toe-to-toe with another one.

Oh, you brought in an artisanal chef? That's very cute. You know, there used to be food here before you annexed it. Real food, too. The kind of food that can only be cooked in a microwave, or if we're feeling fancy, a deep fryer. You can't locally source French fries unless we're in fucking France. There's no such thing as an organic Buffalo wing, since the word "organic" dies as soon as it enters upstate New York. I swear to god if I hear "truffle" anywhere near the list of your menu options, I'm gonna burn this bougie new place to the ground. Actually, razing this overly-hip buzzword palace would add the kind of charm this joint desperately needs.


Another thing: get rid of that web 2.0 compliant eyesore you call a jukebox. Do you really wanna cater to the kind of guys who wear shoes with the toes built in? Those are the only wienerboys who are going to use those extra options on your dumb jukebox/photobooth/tweet factory. If I want to drunk tweet I'll pull out my phone, thank you. Ask the old Brit who always wears the same blazer for a couple band suggestions and buy a goddamned CD playing jukebox because that makes us feel less bombarded by the present. Fuck, why else do you think we're here? We're trying to escape that shit.

Does your daytime bartender have full arm-sleeves? That's cool. Do ALL your new bartenders, barbacks, door men, regulars, and social-media coordinators have full arm-sleeves? That's bad. See, tattoos are meant to indicate individuality. If everyone is uniform in their individualism, then this place is no better than Hot Topic. You can't mass-produce an identity. In fact, you shouldn't even have a social media coordinator. That dumb new mustache logo isn't helping, either. The only logo a proper dive bar should have is that cold look a regular laser-beams at you when you open the door at 11 AM and it lets in too much light.

Actually, I'm not done with the bartenders. Why are they suddenly younger than me? Rule number one of any good local institution is that the bartenders have been working there since Gerald Ford was a viable late-night punchline. I've noticed that one of these drink-slingers has an eyepatch, this is troubling. See, usually I would cite this as an example of why a place is great. Unfortunately, this is not the case with your establishment. No man with hair that buoyant, a beard that manicured, a vest that crisp, has ever deserved an eyepatch. Turtle from Entourage with an eyepatch is still Turtle from Entourage. If it looks like a bro, and drinks Jaeger like a bro, it's a bro.

Let's talk about the toilets for a second. Why are they working? God help us, why the hell are they clean? Bathroom stalls are the breeding ground for our next generation of poet laureates. Banksy got his start in bathrooms. I don't know if that's true, but I want to believe it. This also serves as a warning to you if you begin to faux-embrace dumb graffiti in your stalls. Nothing's worse than someone pandering to the kind of idiots who keep pens in their pockets to write "for a good time" while they're taking a shit. Come to think of it, any phone number on the wall not belonging to someone who most likely died of GRID is an act of aggression. This is a dive bar for chrissakes, not Buckingham Palace.

To be completely honest with you, I'd be willing to look past this, all of this, if you didn't make it cost five bucks for a Pabst. But do whatever the hell you want to do to this place, I'll show up if I can get a decent pint for less than a pack of smokes.

This post previously appeared on MUNCHIES in June, 2014.