There’s something about an authentic dive bar that immediately makes patrons feel at home, but that particular ambiance can be difficult to recreate for those new to the bar business. Iconic symbols such as neon beer signs help establish a place as that type of bar, but there are other components as well. However, many new bar owners strive for a dive bar atmosphere because they think it’ll bring in customers — after all, dive bars are on trend, and everyone likes a comfortable atmosphere — but in authentic dive bars, this atmosphere develops naturally over a period of time. Anything else just looks like it’s trying too hard.
Five Classic Elements of a Dive Bar
- Neon beer signs
- Domestic beers
- Classic cocktails
- Dart boards and pool tables
- A regular crowd
Beer signs on the wall are a sure sign of a well-loved neighborhood bar, and they should definitely correspond to the types of beer the establishment has available. Dive bars are generally heavy on domestic beers but usually have at least one or two craft beers on tap or in the cooler. Many choose to serve craft beers in bottle only because their customer base tends to prefer classic domestic beers instead.
Beer isn’t all that dive beers serve, however — they’re also great places to enjoy a classic cocktail or two. However, ordering the latest trendy drink may not be a great idea — chances are good that the bartender won’t know how to make it because these places are all about the classics.
Dart boards and pool tables are two more staples of a genuine dive bar. Most people really enjoy having something fun to do while they relax with a nice cold glass of beer or their favorite cocktail. Most communities also have pool and dart leagues, which provide a great way for bars to bring in business.
The People Matter Most
The most important aspect of a dive bar is that it’s got a loyal customer base that’s been active for at least several years. It’s the sort of place that regular customers can easily walk to and where the bartender has their drink ready before they even have a seat.
Until recently, the term “dive bar” had fairly negative connotations, but they’ve actually become trendy in recent years as a response to overly fussy establishments that serve complicated and pretentious craft cocktails. The key to creating a good dive bar, however, is an elusive mix of cultivating the right customer base and providing an environment that offers comfort and value and letting the overall ambiance develop naturally.