It’s the day of the almighty American staple, the dive bar, on National Dive Bar Day, and we’re celebrating it on July 7! Alcohol company Seagram’s, now owned by Diageo, founded this day to honor dive bars. They say they chose the seventh day of the seventh month for the special dive bar drink, the 7&7, which is made with Seagram’s Seven Crown and 7-Up.
History of National Dive Bar Day
The dive bar has a long history. By their very nature, bars had to have been around a long time and seen a lot over the years to be labeled a ‘dive bar.’ In their first life, dive bars might have been taverns, mom-and-pop shops, roadhouses, speakeasies, inns, or saloons. As circumstances changed, so did their clientele and ability to care for the establishment.
How did so many dive bar establishments come about? The story might just go like this: Prohibition blocked the manufacturing, sale, and transportation of alcohol, and led to the rise of multiple illegal drinking establishments all over the U.S. The repeal of this law ended this flourishing illegal drinking industry but its popularity spiked again by the ’70s.
Many people credit author/poet Charles Bukowski’s semi-autobiography, “Barfly,” hailed as an ultimate ‘dive bar’ story even today, as being responsible for bringing dive bars to the cultural mainstream. Apart from a few exceptions — such as the Prohibition and the beatnik era — dive bars were never part of popular culture. “Barfly” and David Lynch’s film “Blue Velvet,” plus mentions in pulp novels and noir thrillers took the humble dive bar to new heights. It became ‘cool’ to celebrate low culture. The end of the ’80s saw many bars adopting the name ‘dive’, even though these establishments were brand new.
The ‘dive’ in ‘dive bar’ refers to where the entrance of the bar is located. Many kitchens began adopting gas or coal ovens instead of the larger wood-fired ovens, leading to extra spaces being created under existing restaurants. As the Oxford English Dictionary says, the reason we use ‘dive’ to describe a ‘drinking den’ comes from the fact that such places were in cellars or basements that people could ‘dive’ into without being observed by others.
As for Seagram’s association with this day, much like the dive bar, this drink has also seen a shift in status. By creating this day, they have embraced this shift and have given people a reason to celebrate dive bars and the drink, too. The company also aims to help preserve the dive bar, supporting the National Trust for Historic Preservation with various initiatives.
National Dive Bar Day timeline
'Dive' is first used in relation to drinking establishments — according to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word appears in the New York Herald: "One of the gayly decorated dives where young ladies […] dispense refreshments to thirsty souls."
As the manufacturing, sale, and transportation of alcohol is forbidden, illegal drinking venues start popping up — the most common of these is the speakeasy.
Films like “Blue Velvet” and “Barfly,” among others, become widely popular — they feature dive bar establishments and cause an increase in popularity for this culture.
The trend of naming bars — all bars, whether old or new — as 'dives' begin.
National Dive Bar Day is celebrated annually on this day, from this year onward.
National Dive Bar Day FAQs
What's the difference between a dive bar and a regular bar?
Dive bars serve inexpensive drinks and are generally not known for their food. They lean towards a more unglamorous style, making them different from most other bars and pubs around.
What is a dive bar in the U.S.A.?
An informal bar or pub, dive bars are also called neighborhood bars, where local residents gather to drink and socialize.
What makes a good dive bar?
An article by “HuffPost” claims that truly great dive bars have regulars, sassy bartenders, and excellent drink specials. An additional requirement of a great dive bar is the ability to be ‘inconspicuous’.
How To Celebrate National Dive Bar Day
Visit a dive bar
How do you celebrate a day dedicated to the dive bar? Why, you visit one, of course! Find an authentic dive bar (see our '5 Facts' section) and plan to visit it. If you already have a favorite dive bar, hit some friends up for a quick visit. You can make this more authentic and order a 7&7 to honor Seagram’s contribution to this day.
Go on a dive bar scavenger hunt
If you really want to soak in the dive bar experience and maybe step outside of your comfort zone, try finding more dive bars around you. Talk to friends and family, visit local sites, or simply go out for a walk or drive and try to find new dive bars that you can visit. You can even turn this into a group activity by inviting friends to go on this scavenger hunt with you. While you’re at it, throw in some free drinks for the person who finds the best dive bar.
Celebrate your local dive bar
Dive bars come loaded with history, colorful stories, and maybe even a famous customer or two. Talk to the bartender or the owners about your local dive bar's origins and history. Share pictures and stories on social media. Plus, drinking and spending money at the local dive bar helps support their business too, which is a win-win.
5 Signs You’re At A Dive Bar
It's too dark or too bright
Dive bars are either lit up like a Christmas tree or use the bare minimum amount of lighting.
They have a history
A true dive bar has seen it all — multiple owners, crazy customers, and even political ups and downs.
Bathroom reading material
Step into a bathroom at a dive bar and you’re bound to come out with intimate knowledge of a stranger's love life and random philosophical sayings, which are written all over the walls.
They're older than you
Dive bars don't try to be dive bars, they just are, and this usually comes from long years of working at the same thing.
Everybody knows your name
Like the “Cheers” title song, a good dive bar attracts regulars who will learn your name (or, you know, your face) as you become a regular yourself.
Why We Love National Dive Bar Day
Dive bars are a part of our history
Dive bars are a part of our history and, if we play our cards right, they will be a part of our future too. They are more than places to kick back and relax. They represent a home away from home for many people, a place where they can enjoy a casual drink after a long day.
We are nutty for ‘local’
If you think about it, dive bars around us are run by local business owners. Supporting the local dive bar means we are supporting local businesses and helping them stay open.
Dive bars are completely casual
Sometimes we just need a place to be where we don't have to act like our best selves or even dress up. A dive bar is all that and more. The most clientele at a dive bar is only there for the atmosphere and the drinks, and could care less about you or what you are doing.
National Dive Bar Day dates