By definition a dive bar has no definition.
If you ask someone to define a dive bar, their answer won’t be about a dive bar it will be about their dive bar. Whether it’s the drab basement bar where they first sucked down a one dollar High Life, or some one-light-bulb hole in the wall where they continue to drink away the post-work hours, everyone’s vision of a dive bar is inherently personal.
Emily Dickinson once wrote, “I can’t tell you, but you feel it.” I imagine Dickinson was describing love (or just as likely despair) with this line, but her sentiment is just as true for a dive bar. Yes, there’s a certain atmosphere that all dives share. The outdated decor, the dusty bottles, the stone-faced bartender, the stench of stale domestic beers, a dirt cheap prices (often because the beer is just so damn bad.) We’re all familiar with these dive bar tropes, but what really makes a bar a dive is a feeling. It’s the sense that the world outside has disappeared, and for however long you sit on that raggedy polyester stool everything else can wait. It’s just you, a sweating bottle of beer, and your compatriots. Even if those compatriots are just the thoughts in your head.