People gather inside a dive bar with drinks.

photo by: Andrew Weeks Photography

February 15, 2019

How to Save Your Local Dive Bar

Dive bars are integral to America’s historic character: These careworn buildings exemplify the love and energy we put into our communities.

Of course, we want to make sure our local watering holes last forever. But rising rents and the inability to find the right owners can threaten places that have been around for generations.

Despite the challenges facing local dive bars, there are ways to keep them in business. Find out how you can become a dive bar champion with these seven tips. Then, put them into action for National Dive Bar Day on July 7!

1. Drink Local. All businesses, but especially local, historic ones, depend on awesome customers like you to thrive. Get involved in a “Drink Local” campaign with your neighborhood association or, if one doesn’t exist yet, start it yourself. These campaigns encourage people to spend on independent businesses and maintain your neighborhood’s unique character.

2. Talk to the owner. How can you save a dive bar if you don’t know its history? Ask for the owner one night, buy them a drink, and find out the bar’s full story. Have they had any famous customers? What’s the wildest thing that ever happened there? And most importantly, what inspires them to keep the place open? What you find out might surprise you.

Tiki lights and booths inside a bar on National Dive Bar Day.

photo by: www.RobCorpuz.com

From their quirky decor to their quality drinks, dive bars exemplify the love and energy we put into our communities.

3. Take plenty of photos. Pictures or it didn’t happen, right? Spend time capturing why you love your dive bar in images—take photos of the regulars, the music, the quirky decor, and (of course) the drinks. Then, be sure to share them on Instagram. Use captions and hashtags like #SaveTheDiveBar to shine a light on your favorite spot.

4. Blast their story online. Take the stories you’ve learned from the owners, the regulars, and the rest of the community, and show the world why you love it so much! Once your story is down pat, you can pitch it local media—see if they have an interest in highlighting the bar, too.

5. Organize a happy hour. Everyone loves discounted drinks, so why not host a happy hour that helps people understand the importance of your local watering hole? Invite your friends and neighbors (and make sure they invite their friends, too).

6. Host community events. You're not just limited to happy hours when getting the word out around your favorite dive bar. Try getting a group of like-minded advocates to heart bomb the establishment, or host an Instagram tour or meetup (especially if the bar is particularly photogenic).

7. Add your voice. If your favorite bar is under threat, the owner will let you know. Many dive bars end up closing permanently due to rising rents, but there’s still something you can do. Help the owner start a petition, asking their landlord for rent concessions or negotiations. Some landlords might be willing to compromise when they see consumers rallying to keep a business in place.

Last but not least, you can show the love for historic dive bars in your area and support the National Trust at the same time. Tell us about your favorite dive bars on social media using the hashtag #SaveTheDiveBar.

Carson Bear is an Editorial Coordinator at the National Trust. She’s passionate about combining popular culture with historic places, and loves her 200-year-old childhood farmhouse in Pennsylvania.

Join us for PastForward, the historic preservation event of the year, October 10-12 in Denver, Colorado. Register online by October 4!

Tell Me More!