Gentrification Is the Dive Bar’s Greatest Enemy

If you’re a resident of New York, it would seem that a great dive bar closes every other week. Those prone to nostalgia throw up their arms or hang their heads in lament for an institution that has hosted everyone from Marilyn Monroe to neighborhood junkies to a once-unknown Bob Dylan. Even if they haven’t been to said retiree bar, New Yorkers love to decry the disappearing breed of dirty, seedy, time-worn dives with fanfare and news trucks.

At Newsweek, Alexander Nazaryan tracks the “epidemic” of dive bar closings from San Francisco (where three dives died last year) to Washington D.C. (R.I.P. Remington’s) to Chicago (au revoir Marie’s Rip Tide). He chalks it up, in part, to society’s newfound inability to sit for an extended period of time and just soak up the surroundings—too much to do, so little time—and to the high-low nature of today’s drinkers spanning Pappy Van Winkle-ites to light beer chuggers in the trailer park. “The dive bar used to be for those in the middle, those who had a little money and a little time, not to mention a little curiosity about the human race,” he says. Even if the middle has shrunk, in a vacuum, shitty, undefinable dives would probably always exist—barring an owner’s death or irreparable damage. Someone, somewhere is always in need of a cheap beer and a jukebox at 10 a.m. Or 3 a.m. 

More likely, the rash of dive bar deaths is due to the never-ending story of gentrification. “The canaries in the real estate gold mine,” dives are the holdout establishments from a time when its neighborhood was a dump—or at least not very cool. Nazaryan points to Danny Meyer, one of New York’s most successful restauranteurs, who—even at the height of his Shake Shack imperialism— is being forced to leave the big box-saturated circus ring of Union Square because rents are just too damn high. If Mr. Meyer’s two-star Union Square Café can’t afford the rent, even the most lauded of the dives is doomed. [Newsweek] [Photo: Flickr/The All-Nite Images]