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What Makes a Bar a True Dive Bar

One of the first documented uses of the term “dive bar” was in an 1871 issue of the New York Herald, according to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. The SOED defines “dive bars” as “illegal drinking dens in the lower levels of a building, like a cellar or a basement,” where patrons would “dive” into the venue. That definition eventually became obsolete, so in 1961, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language swooped in and defined dive bars as “a disreputable resort for drinking or entertainment.” Not the most ringing endorsement for any place, but that’s okay, because none of these definitions hit the mark anymore. In the 21st century, how can we begin to explain what a dive bar is? Read more >

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