I’m a geek. I love classifying, organizing, and taking notes about stuff. I suppose that’s a big reason why I started blogging in the first place. It was a place to store and share some of those notes as I took them. It has its downsides, though. I often find myself trying to put things in neat little buckets to make them make a little more sense in the bigger picture. That gets a little difficult when we start talking about local bars. (You have noticed that I’ve begun adding local bars to the website, right?)

I’ve been working behind the scenes on organizing all these local bars for when things get a little more unwieldy on the site to make it easy to find the types of bars you’re looking for. In that process, though, one word came up that I think is a little tough to understand – Dive. What makes something a dive bar?

Why Does Anyone Care About Dive Bars?

Bars are great these days. Owners have figured out how to create drinking establishments that provide a great meal, a unique experience, and much more. It’s a great time to be a drinker. The classic dive bar is more popular than ever as drinkers long for something else. We long for simplicity, value, comfort, and a place that reminds us of the past.

The reasons that each person craves the dive bar are as varied as the criteria that make a bar a dive in the first place.

When I’ve talked to folks about their love for a dive, I’ve heard it all. Some people love the non-judgemental freedom that comes with a dive bar, while others the simplicity the lack of choice can bring you. The reasons are personal, and a book could be written about them.

What Actually Makes A Bar A Dive?

This took way more time than it should have. I have been obsessed with figuring out what makes one place a dive bar but another spot a no-frills neighborhood joint, and I have finally cracked the code. It’s way easier than you think it is.

In my research (consistently over a bottle of beer while bellied up somewhere), I have figured out that to understand a dive bar, you must first know that it’s not a yes or no question. Every bar has a little bit of dive in them, and in that way – it’s more of a spectrum or a scale of dive-ness for every bar.

In many ways, a dive bar is as much a state of mind as it is basic criteria. Folks have often written that dive bars are hard to describe but that you “know it when you see it.” While I can get behind that idea, I needed to come up with something more concrete than that. I needed something that was scorable, identifiable, and explainable.

I came up with the Dive Scale.

The Dive Scale

I have spent several weeks analyzing some of the best (and worst) bars that I’ve been to, and not only figuring out what some of the criteria for its dive status actually are and then building an equation that will give it a dive score. After running hundreds of bars through this dive calculator, I’m ready to add these scores to every bar I write about going forward (I’ll even update the ones already up on the website).

It’s a “Dive Score” that I know some of you will find useful when choosing what place to belly up to!

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