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Individual bars may be considered to be disreputable, sinister, of poor upkeep, or even a detriment to the community. This was especially true in the past:
“The dives themselves are nuisances, per se, and that is why they have to pay such high license prices.”
A 1961 dictionary defined a "dive" as "a disreputable resort for drinking or entertainment."
In an article in its August 2010 issue, Playboy magazine described a dive bar as:
A church for down-and-outers and those who romanticize them, a rare place where high and low rub elbows—bums and poets, thieves and slumming celebrities. It’s a place that wears its history proudly.
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary indicates that in the United States in the 1880s the term referred to an illegal drinking den or other place of ill repute, especially one located in a basement. However, this usage has since become obsolete.
- "I Love This Bar," a song performed by Toby Keith, is about a dive bar.
- The Pet Shop Boys' hit song "West End Girls" mentions "a dive bar in a West End town."
- "Papa Was a Rodeo," a song by The Magnetic Fields, asks "What are we doing in this dive bar, how can you live in a place like this?"
- "Longhaired Redneck" by David Allan Coe: "They'd never come to see me in this dive."
- "This Is What Makes Us Girls," a song by Lana Del Rey, has a lyric, "Sweet sixteen and we had arrived, Baby's table dancin' at the local dive."
- Lake Street Dive, a band named after a neighborhood with many dives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
- "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)," by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen, is about a lonely man sitting in a dive bar owned by "Joe," to whom the man tells his troubles.
- "Midnight," a song by Tor Miller, mentions a dive bar in New York City.
- "Take It Back ", a song by Ed Sheeran, mentions a dive bar in the lyric, "Madison Square Garden is where I might be but more likely you'll find me in the back room of a dive bar with my mates."
- The 1987 film Barfly is a semi-fictional story of poet/author Charles Bukowski during the time when he was drinking heavily in Los Angeles dive bars. The film features a silent cameo appearance by Bukowski.
- In the 1999 film Fight Club, the fight club was started in the basement of a dive bar.
- The television show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is set in a dive bar in South Philadelphia.
- In The Simpsons, Moe's Tavern is a dive bar in Springfield which is frequented by Homer Simpson, Carl Carlson, Lenny Leonard, and Barney Gumble. The tavern is named after, and run by, Moe Szyslak.
- In American Dad!, Roger owns and runs his own dive bar, Roger's Place, from the attic of the Smith house.
- The Food Network program Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives highlights unique foods and drinks served in dive bars.
- Troy Daily Times (Troy, Michigan). 7 February 1888. Missing or empty
- Odd Wisconsin Archive, third paragraph.
- Chicago Tribune. 17 September 1948. p. 8/1. Missing or empty
- Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language. Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam Co. 1961. p. 662.
- Wallace, Glenn (24 July 2010). "Jasper’s makes list of top ‘dive bars’". Lompoc Record.
- Dayton, Todd (2009). San Francisco's Best Dive Bars. New York: Ig Publishing. ISBN 0-9703125-8-X.
- Hamill, Pete (1994). A Drinking Life: A Memoir. NewYork: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-34102-8.
- Moehringer, J.R. (2005). The Tender Bar: A Memoir. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 1-4013-0064-2.
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