D.C.’s Lack of Dives

by Sonny Bunch on January 17, 2013

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.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Heminator January 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm

So you’d rather hang out at a place like this:

“Meridian Pint was founded on the premise of environmental sustainability. Our strict focus on American craft beer allows us to eliminate the impact of Trans Atlantic shipping as well as maintain a locally based revenue stream. In addition, we serve mostly draft beer enabling us to reduce our impact on recycling resources. A large percentage of our Chef driven, seasonal menu is sourced from local and regional farms. Pairing great beer with unique dinners, cheeses or appetizers enables us to elevate the growing culture of craft beer here in Washington, DC.”

Now if I like craft beer – a lot – but that joint sounds like a thoroughly obnoxious yuppie hellhole.


Sonny Bunch January 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Blah, pretentious ecobabble means naught when I’m drinking a fine barleywine or a hoppy IPA.


Jim Swift January 17, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I guess the “Tune Inn” is a dive bar. But I love it not for the fake nostalgia, but for its Natty Boh, drunk Congressmen, home-made mozzarella sticks, and its famous deep-fried, beer-battered hamburger.


Sonny Bunch January 17, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Tune Inn is fine and it has divier elements (for example: I went there for “brunch” one day and it was, well. Oof. I’m pretty sure people were actually playing Keno) but I still would say it’s almost too kitschy to be a dive bar.


SkinsFanPG January 17, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Is Archibalds still on K st? That was a dive. A dive that also featured nude women dancing. Loved that place.


Sonny Bunch January 18, 2013 at 9:25 am

Yes, Archibalds is still there. I actually work just down the corner from it.


DI Floorhor January 18, 2013 at 9:23 am

Another great edition of “Stuff Sonny Hates”!


Sonny Bunch January 18, 2013 at 9:23 am

I think I’m going to make that the tagline of the site.


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