Usually, it’s pretty obvious that the bar you’re in is a dive, and don’t get us wrong, a good dive bar is worth it’s weight in gold, but, just in case you find yourself in a situation where you’re unsure, here are a couple of tell tale signs. I promise not to get all Jeff Foxworthy on you and say “blah, blah blah, then you might be in dive bar” even though that’d probably give the Nascar crowd a boner.
1. The Atmosphere
Often with a good dive bar, when you walk inside the difference is day and night, literally. Making it as dark as possible inside probably makes it easier on the daytime drunks. The air inside will often feel thicker than the air outside. When you walk in, it’s almost as if you’ve been slimed by Slimer from the Ghost Busters if he were a chain-smoker that never showered. It sticks to your clothes like a thin, almost greasy film, made mostly of sorrow and abandoned dreams.
2. You Stick to Things
Not just some things, everything. I compare a good dive bar [in this sense] to a strip club; you don’t really want to touch anything, you never eat the food, and if you have a little cocaine, the women will sleep with you… actually, that last one might just be the strip clubs.
3. The Top-Shelf Bottles
They either have dust on them, or they don’t exist. Not a lot of dive bar patrons are going to sit in a dark dingy bar drinking 21 year old scotch at a price per glass that could buy 30 PBRs.
4. Excessive Graffiti
Not unusual for a bar to have graffiti in the bathroom stalls, but a good dive bar will have it everywhere; the bathroom, the walls, and even carved into the bar, which is especially awesome because, how do you do that discreetly? You don’t. If the bar has a disproportionate amount of racist graffiti, then you can be sure it’s a dive bar… or any bar in the south.
5. The Women
Are “the women” really just one, lone, toothless, chain-smoking, 50 year old divorcee that’s telling you that you look like her oldest son, and hitting on you in the same breath?
6. The Music
Take a look at the jukebox. Do you see a lot of Def Leppard on there, or maybe some Boston, Alabama, Kansas or even .38 Special? Not a good sign. It used to be that you could just check for Journey and have your answer right there, but then some frat boy decided that “Don’t Stop Believing” should be the theme song for every Friday or Saturday night at every bar, everywhere. So, Journey could either mean that you are in a dive bar, or that you are going to get date raped by some dude in a shirt with Greek letters on it.
7. The Bathroom
Go in the men’s room. Is there a urinal… in a pile in the corner of the room? If there is, don’t let that stop you from using it. The “piss trough” is another dead give away. If you come across one of these, I say you then have the option of peeing anywhere else in the bar as punishment for the dumbass bar owner that had that thing installed. Extra points if you can discreetly piss on the bar while ordering a drink. If you non-discreetly piss on the bar while ordering a drink and get away with it, I think you win.
8. The Value
Can you drink all night, buy rounds for your friends, pay for your tab with a 20, tip 30% and still get change? Do you spend more money on the $.50 a game pool table than you do on booze? A good dive bar should also have great specials, like 25 cent pints of sophisticated labels like Pabstagansett, Nattybrau, and of course Schlitzmans.
Side note: Nattybrau also available in Nattybrau Ice, brewed with the true gentleman in mind.
9. That Smell
You know the one I’m talking about, a musty combination of beer soaked floors and failure.
And last, but certainly not least…
10. Those Three Little Words…
Big… Buck… Hunter.