Dive bars in Flavortown
By the end of the '80s, the term "dive" even began appearing in the names of new drinking establishments -- a trend that, regrettably, continues to this day. One of the first, Christy’s Dive Bar in Boca Raton, FL, opened in a shopping mall in 1987. "I liked the idea of a casual, come-as-you-are, regular-guy place,” owner Allen Christy told the Boca Raton News.
Of course, it took more than a couple of cult movies and a mall bar in Boca to turn "dive" into a wildly misapplied and overused appellation. The culprits are legion, but I suspect the rise of the internet and the popularity of clickbait articles and a certain Food Network show deserve the lion's share of blame. In 2006, Food Network aired an intended one-off special featuring a spiky-haired host named Guy Fieri, who invited viewers to join him on a road trip to America's best diners, drive-ins, and dives. Ten years and 260 episodes later, the frost-tipped huckster has yet to visit a true dive.
The essence of a dive bar
So what is a true dive? That's a question I've been asking myself a lot lately. Let's start with the basics. Dive bars usually have more than one life. Their first is as a tavern, mom-and-pop shop, roadhouse, speakeasy, juke joint, nightclub, honky tonk, club, lounge, pub, beer hall, fern bar, gay bar, Tiki joint, inn, or saloon. At some point in time, unforeseen circumstances lead to compromises in upkeep, inventory, and clientele. This can occur slowly or swiftly, but the consequences are lasting. Often it is the result of changes occurring in the neighborhood in which the bar is situated, but many a dive was borne of divorce, health crises, or legal judgments. If you still need help discerning the relative divey-ness of a watering hole, I've worked up a short list of questions suitable for printing and laminating.