I was prepared to get my dander up about this DCist piece by John Fleury and Benjamin R. Freed on the District’s lack of dive bars…but you know what? They’re pretty much right!
But don’t delude yourself. We’re not looking for a true dive. We’re looking for the invented nostalgia of the idea a dive conveys but watered down for the masses.
You don’t want your beer to taste like the Toxic Avenger washed his feet in it (even if it costs $2), but you want a place that looks like that is the case while drinking your Dogfish Head IPA or Ketel One and in-house tonic. The idea of a disgusting bathroom that looks and smells more like a slaughterhouse is incredibly amusing and useful when writing on your OKCupid profile that you “love dive bars,” but it is a very different story when you have to use it multiple times after that “seal has broken.” …
There is nothing wrong with saying D.C. no longer has an economic climate that can sustain true dives that rival some sad place in the rust belt that reminds you of the two-light town you grew up in. We work to get nice clothes, nice toys, nice homes, and yet take some shame that we don’t have dingy basement dive bars? Instead, perhaps we should be consider our many bars that have our favorite elements of the nostalgic dive without the violence, shitty-tasting swill, and broken jukebox is a good thing. After all, if we all love an empty dive bar to ourselves, why didn’t we do more to support the ones we had? We have voted with our wallets to kill the dive bar and now have artisan-made, craft-brewed buyer’s remorse.
As I said, I was prepared to get all “Hey, we’re not snobs, we love dive bars!” but that’s just not true. And I’m glad it’s not true because dive bars suck. Fake nostalgia—nostalgia for something we either never had or never really wanted in the first place—is the worst kind of nostalgia there is. We have lots of places that are stripped down or minimalist without being true “dives.” And that’s good!
So let’s celebrate D.C.’s burgeoning bar scene. I’d rather have a craft cocktail at The Passenger or an amazing domestic microbrew at Meridian Pint than go to some drunkard-filled and dingy haunt that the cops want to shut down because it inflicts the pathologies of its patrons on the neighborhood. If that makes me a snob, well, so be it.