Life
by Lance Pauker on October 25, 2012

1. Barely Functional Business Plan

Every “successful” dive bar will feature drinks that could be paid in full with coins–and in extreme cases, random barters. It is therefore customary to wonder at least three times per visit how the fuck this place actually stays in business

2. Decrepit Bathrooms

  • Signs cannot simply read “Men” and “Women”
  • Bonus points if those stick figure things connote something sexual
  • Bathroom should perpetually smell like vomit
  • In an endearing way
  • It should be clear that grimy, condomless, high-chance-of-yielding-a-kid sex was recently had

3. Insider/Outsider Feel

No dive is complete without its series of cockeyed regulars. The one’s who you wonder how the fuck they exist outside the “you may be weird, but we’re weird too” sign that hangs above the entrance. Neck tattoos are often a prerequisite, are slightly-below-homeless jackets and a propensity for not showering as frequent as the rest of us. A missing tooth is a bonus.

Despite having played the game of life in ways you can’t really fathom, this crew, while unmistakably tight, has an uncanny knack of never making newcomers feel isolated. Given the homey, “you worship this place or fuck you” nature of the modern dive bar, this is rather remarkable. 

4. Terrible Lighting

It must always feel like it’s pouring outside. No exceptions.

5. Pool Tables

Are you a down-to-earth guy who has inexplicably landed a date with a prim-and-proper gal hiding a bit of a wild side? Teach her how to “shoot pool,” and you’re golden.

6. Bartender with a Past

Back in the day, before the sentence  “holy shit I saw on the internet that you were wanted for murder” ever existed, this was likely exponentially cooler. Now, we simply have very attractive girls with too many earrings, whose brash yet friendly demeanor often lead us to wonder what the hell went wrong. 

If you ask, there’s a 40% chance that this person’s father was an adult film tycoon but lost all his fortune after getting involved with mobsters, forcing the mother and daughter duo to travel the country on money earned from Rodeo Queen gigs.

7. Music

These types of establishments live or die with Live Music. When not featuring a 40-something rock group with a suprisingly large local fanbase, the music laws are as follows:

Nothing past the year 2000, save a Third Eye Blind or Pearl Jam straggler. Anything in the AC/DC, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd realm should hold down as anchors, but the real winners come in the form of once-forgotten, semi one-hit wonders.

Think Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes,” Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best Around,” and a real crowd favorite, Asia’s “Heat of the Moment.” 

8. Drink and Conversation Etiquette

After taking a sip of your pint or mug (never a “glass”), your goblet must be slammed down emphatically, as if you’re channeling the rage from having to deal with your incompetent crew members at the construction site. Anything you say must have an unintentional metaphorical quality to it, in the sense that had your statement been used at the right time in the right movie, it’d be one of the most famous quotes in film history.

Any deep breaths or sighs must be uncharacteristically hardy, as if you are bemoaning the miseries of our post-blue collar world.