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Issue 146 - Bar Battles

Whisky Magazine Issue 146
September 2017

 

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Bar Battles

Is the dive bar dead? Fred looks at some of the best examples

Nestled in between salty peanuts and a cold beer, a candle flickers in a dive bar. A candle! What is that doing there? I rub my hand along the bar's edge. Gone were the familiar sticky spots. The original lacquer felt smooth to the touch. Hey, what's going on here? Why aren't my soles making peeling sounds when I walk? And where's the occasional peanut shell crunch?

I cracked open the menu. It's new, the candlelight, ugh, the candle, reflecting on its plastic sheen. Gone are the $4 canned beers and $5 Bourbon shot specials. Now, it's Old Fashioned, Martini, and some house cocktails, and the canned beer is now $6, Maker's Mark is $7 and Old Forester 1920 is $16. What the hell?

Come to find out, some hipster found this watering hole, wrote about it on Yelp, which then attracted the local independent newspaper, which attracted the city's visitor bureau, who showed it to a travel writer, who called it a great Dive Bar in some magazine. Now, it's known, and the owners freshened it up for the new customers whose presence offended long-time customers; thick knuckle plumber guy and chain-smoking data cruncher who hates his job. Apparently, this new crowd doesn't like the 1960s smell and crusty charm that made it a true dive bar, and the owners, too afraid to be themselves, put candles in the place and lost all the customers who brought them to the dance. If you didn't know it from before and or really didn't understand dive bars, you may think nothing of the new wall paper. But ...

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