Cocktails & Spirits

What Makes a Bar "a Dive"? Five Telltale Signs

South Florida tends to lag behind in many areas. We have to wait for large arts and cultural events to make their way down. Food and drink trends are slow to emerge. And some years we have to wait forever to get some semblance of a winter. But one thing we have plenty of: dive bars.

That being said, Clean Plate Charlie has decided to take a tour of the amazing little dive bars that permeate the South Florida landscape. However, just to be straight--and to save some hurt feelings--we've decided to define what makes a bar a dive bar.

See Also:
- South Florida's Best Dive Bars
- South Florida's Best Food-Serving Dive Bars
Underground Dive Bar Shows Porn

According to Wikipedia, "a dive bar is a type of bar or pub. Dive bars generally have a relaxed and informal atmosphere -- they are often referred to by local residents as 'neighborhood bars,' where people in the neighborhood gather to drink and socialize. Individual bars may be considered to be disreputable, sinister, or even a detriment to the community."

While we agree with (most of) Wikipedia's basic sentiment, we want to localize the definition of a dive bar to five attributes common in South Florida. Not every dive bar has all five, but if you find at least three out of the five, it's a dive.

Smoking is Allowed
Even if you are a smoker, there is a good chance that you will leave a dive bar feeling like your lungs and eyeballs are on fire. While there are many South Florida dive bars with outside areas (even dive bar patrons enjoy the lovely weather) if you're in an enclosed space and there is a ton of smoke, it's a dive bar.

Beer is Served in Plastic Cups
Obviously, South Floridians love to party. With that, accidents tend to happen. Especially in a place where you are supposed to get rip-roaring drunk. Bring on the beer in the plastic cup. Not all dive bars use them -- let's be honest, many of these bars only have, like, five patrons. And some non-dives convert to plastic after 10 p.m. -- i.e., the rowdy downtown bar crowd. But if you find a beer geek drinking Bud Lite out of a plastic cup because there are no other options, it's a dive bar.

You are Never the Drunkest Person
We get it -- most of us like to drink. And there is probably a good chance that on occasion, you have been the drunk person in the bar. Not the case at a dive. If you walk in at some random time--specifically the middle of the afternoon -- and someone is attempting to keep from swaying off his or her stool, it's a dive bar.

Dark and Dingy
You open the door. Out wafts the stale beer and smoke-filled air and the dim waves of backlit neon signs. There is a faded, dim patina in the atmosphere. If you instantly feel just a tad dirtier when you walk in the door, it's dive bar.

Scary Bathrooms
For some reason, bars with disgusting bathrooms are overly common in South Florida. Why? Heck if we know. But if you feel like there is a chance of catching some sort of crazy disease when you go to break your seal, it's a dive bar.

Did we miss anything? What do you think defines a dive bar?