Now that’s what I call a dive bar!
In their 2018 essay "Welcome to the Big Flat Now," authors Thom Bettridge, Joerg Koch, and Lucas Mascatello argue that global culture has been completely restructured by technology to the extent that we exist in a new kind of perpetual present.
Enabled by the network of high-speed internet and technological platforms like Facebook Messenger and Instagram, the authors argue that all cultural referents now exist in a kind of omnipresence. Anyone with a smartphone is able to access Instagram, search a hashtag, and immediately have access to up to billions of data points on whatever topic they wish, with those data points linking to billions of other data points. This information can be historical, speculative or contemporary, but it all exists in the same technological place at once.
The post-dive bar is the dive bar of the Big Flat Now. Calling places like Sandy Hut and The Commodore post-dive bars may sound like a generous alternative to calling them fake dive bars, or perhaps dive bar-themed bars, but that doesn’t capture the cultural context in which they exist. Our understanding of what a dive bar is now what you find under #divebar. The Commodore and Sandy Hut may physically be in Brooklyn and Portland, but they are of the internet. The people who frequent them live in Brooklyn and Portland, but their lives are on the internet.
“The sheer volume of information available puts a lot of pressure on the speed of communication,” write Bettridge, Koch and Mascatello. “Creative content must be understood instantly, otherwise there is no traction. The paradox of this output is that it must be familiar and uncomplicated, but also astonishing and new. To do this, creatives often combine well-known, but apparently unrelated, design categories. The more obscure the connection and the more familiar the archetypes, the more surprising the result.”
By disrupting our understanding of the dive bar with craft beer, cocktails, and food prepared to modern tastes, the post dive attracts attention and becomes part of the cultural conversation. These bars are authentic in the same sense that meme culture, emo rap, and Supreme shirts depicting celebrities wearing Supreme shirts are authentic: Their value comes from the creative labor of combining their component parts into something novel. This just isn’t your mom and dad’s authenticity.
As such, a common language is building among the post-dive bar. As the concept proliferates out of Instagram and into the world at large, you’re going to see some new things at your neighborhood watering hole. These are five signs that your dive bar has become a post-dive.
The alcoholic slushie: There is no better metaphor for millennial degradation and no better sign that you are in a post-dive than the presence of a booze slushie on the menu. Invoking the Icee machines of '90s youth, these neon slurries of cheap alcohol and sugar strike the perfect balance between condescending infantilization, misplaced nostalgia, and pointless novelty that saturates our culture.
A “Best Burger/nachos/bar pizza/bar” award from an alternative weekly newspaper: Alternative journalists make very little money, and therefore love establishments that serve inexpensive alcohol and quality junk food because they are the only places where we can afford to eat and drink. If your local alt-weekly has heaped praise on a dive for their reasonably priced, cheese-topped monstrosities, you are almost certainly in a post-dive bar.
Irony and nostalgia: The post-dive uses vintage beer memorabilia to invoke a sense of working-class authenticity to its customers, many of which have been systematically excluded from performing meaningful labor. It decorates its alcoholic slushies with toothpick umbrellas, invoking tropical vacations we can’t afford. It tops its $1 jello shots with whipped cream and Pop Rocks to make them “fancy.”
Alternative youths: Whether you call them hipsters, alts, indie or art kids, the presence of young, tattooed, well-dressed people in or behind the bar is a signifier that you are in a post-dive.
DJ nights: Any bar can host a rock or folk group, but alternative youths love live dance music. If DJ Kyle is spinning instrumental hip-hop on a Friday evening, you’re in a post-dive.