Dive bar (drinking establishment)
A dive bar is typically a small, unglamorous, eclectic, old-style bar with inexpensive drinks and may feature dim lighting, shabby or dated decor, neon beer signs, packaged beer sales, cash-only service, and a local clientele. That being said, the precise definition of a dive bar is something on which people rarely agree, and is the subject of spirited debates. The term dive was first used in the press in the U.S. in 1880s to describe disreputable places that were often in basements into which one "dives below".
Once considered a derogatory term, dive bar is now a coveted badge of honor bestowed by aficionados looking for authenticity in such establishments. Devotees may describe a bar as "very divey" or "not divey" and compose rating scales of "divey-ness". Author Todd Dayton offers the following: "Dives [dive bars] are like pornography: hard to define but you know it when you see it". As to what distinguishes a dive bar from an ordinary bar, Dayton says:
"For me, the ideal dive bar is run by a beefy guy named Frank, where the aroma of yesterday's beer still hangs in the air, and your quest for clean bathroom (or toilet paper, for that matter) will go eternally unanswered. A bottle of Bud costs two bucks, a shot of Jack, $3, and Pabst Blue Ribbon is served in a can. The sign outside says Steaks, Dinners, Cocktails— but there hasn't been any food served since FDR was president. The prevailing decorative elements are red Naugahyde, wood-toned Formica, and cinder blocks."
Dive bars adhere to a minimal level of effort needed to provide guests with drinks; i.e., they typically do not advertise, provide parking, or have fancy signage. Dive bars are not known for their food. They often don't serve food beyond pretzels and snacks. "Fran's East Side", a Nashville dive bar, sells pork rinds, popcorn, peanuts and microwaved corn dogs ($1) and smoking is allowed. The hand-written menu is taped to the refrigerator. True dive bars are "cash only" and would not have computerized registers. Bathrooms in dive bars are notoriously shabby and may have a shower curtain stall. The owner or one of his family members is often working the bar. Dive bars usually have a clientele from all walks of life, including some old locals who have been drinking there for 20 years.
- Vivanco, Leonor (19 December 2008). "Divers' Education" (Red-eye Chicago Magazine). Chicago Tribune. p. 8. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
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