Do You Hang Out At An Old Man Bar Or A Dive? Here’s How To Tell The Difference

by 5 years ago
Dive Bar


In a city abundant with dive bars and surrounded by tenement houses standing upright just out of habit stood Top Road Tavern, one of few old man bars in the area. My father and uncle ran that old man bar.

My grandfather died and handed the joint off to his middle and youngest sons, my dad being the latter. Uncle Larry had 19 years on his kid brother. Uncle Ang, first born and 22 years apart from the youngest, constantly joked the last of the Illuminati kin only happened because “mom and pop didn’t feel like going to the movies that night.”

The beer was cheap — $.65 for a draft during my stint busing tables in high school — and the only scent strong than cigarette smoke was Aqua Velva. The two television sets at polar ends of the bar were always set to sports, a western or occasionally I Dream Of Jeanne. Barbara Eden in a tube top was the original cure for whiskey dick.

Even at legal age, I never hung out in the place. I could drink for free all night and get any of the sober people milling about to shuttle me back home. It didn’t matter. The place wasn’t attractive to anyone under the age of AARP. So I spent my money in the dives.

Aaron Goldfarb is a writer at Esquire and a booze expert, has penned a slew of books on drinking, dating and drinking while dating and has seen his fair share of dives, dumps and old man hangouts. Goldfarb did a piece for the mag about the subtle difference between an old man bar and dive. The contrasts are more than just beer selection and ambiance.

“Old man bars,” Goldfarb explains, “are often confused with dives, but I think it’s time we finally differentiate between the two. Sure, both have bad lighting, low-class drinks, and countless questionable solo drinkers. Making things even more nettlesome, during a dive bar’s daylight hours those questionable drinkers are almost always old men, because who else has the free time and disregard for their liver to start drinking at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday?”

The lighting, the food, the “entertainment” and a host of different intangibles factor into designating a bar as octogenarian heaven or hole in the wall. Being a frequenter of both in my two decades of imbibing, I wanted to add one more area of a bar that differentiates the dive from the grand dad den.

The bathrooms.

The toilets in my dad’s tavern were spotless, cleaned a couple times throughout the day, and an absolute honor to pass out in. Old man bars always have the cleanest lavatories.

“I would tend to agree with you that old man bar bathrooms are cleaner than dives,” admitted Goldfarb in an email exchange. “Clean in that almost military, no-frills way. Dives are almost defined by just how abjectly disgusting their bathrooms are. Dark as a closet, grafittied, usually broken mirrors, unmopped floors, and often toilets that may not even flush. Avoid at all costs.”

If you’re not sure if your favorite hangout is an old man bar or a dive, Goldfarb’s designations are spot on. Read each over and the answer will become clearer than the pint glasses at any dive in the world. If you’re still not sure, take a look in the crapper. It’s usually where most of life’s questions get answered anyway.

Chris Illuminati is a senior editor with BroBible. He’s written several books you’ve never read. Learn more about him here.

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