Why Dive Bars Are Hard To Pin Down
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When used to describe a bar, the word “dive” is often considered derogatory. These days, what may or may not be considered a dive bar is subjective. A quick Google search reveals several definitions of a dive bar, which include “typically a small, unglamorous, eclectic, old-style bar with inexpensive drinks, which may feature dim lighting, shabby or dated decor, neon beer signs, packaged beer sales, cash-only service, and a local clientele” by Wikipedia and “a well-worn, unglamorous bar, often serving a cheap, simple selection of drinks to a regular clientele. The term can describe anything from a comfortable-but-basic neighbourhood pub to the nastiest swill-slinging hole” by Urban Dictionary. 

Despite all the definitions available online, dive bars are elusive. A bar is called a “dive” based purely on its vibe, which is hard to pin down, and so the definition seems almost intangible. Based on which bars have been classified as “dives” on the internet, it’s safe to conclude that the tag belongs to bars that have an effortless feel. 

Dive bars may stick to serving alcohol that can be sourced easily (forget fancy cocktails), have unpretentious staff and invest the bare minimum amount of money required to keep themselves running. Such bars may or may not play music or serve food. If they are small, they’re likely to remain small instead of expanding like their more ambitious counterparts do. 

A great example of a dive bar is 4S in Delhi’s Defence Colony. Considered cool among the city’s journalism crowd, 4S is loved for its low key vibe, cheap drinks and Chinjabi food. My first visit to 4S was with the editor who gave me my first job in food journalism. We were both single at the time, and so she decided to treat both of us to some Valentine’s Day drinks after work. I had a couple of glasses of Old Monk with Coke as we nibbled on some chilli potatoes. Other bars in Delhi like Thugs and Turquoise Cottage have also been labelled dives, but 4S’ charm remains unparalleled. 

Self-assured and secure in their identity, dive bars do not care about how they come across. They quietly serve those who consider them regular watering holes, doing what they do best: offering drinks at reasonable rates.