In its continuing dive-bar special, Chow.com recently listed the fourteen elements you need to have a proper dive bar, along with nationwide examples of bars that exemplify these qualities.
Not surprisingly, St. Louis has its own shining examples of each quality.
2. Choose an Old Building There's no shortage of bars in old buildings in this town, but 1 Nite Stand is by far the best. Classic south-city style with a high ceiling and old wooden bar back. Last year the owner built a cozy patio surrounded by a privacy fence. Victorian elegance without the riff-raff.
4. Be Nook-Smart In other words, make sure your bar is near an outdoor space that isn't your responsibility. The Cat and Fiddle's large gravel parking lot next to a vacant lot on the edge of town's the perfect space for covert activity that as an owner, you don't want to know about.
5. Operate Under the Radar Claudia's Pub, which has been owned by a woman named Claudia since the late '80s, still bears the sign from the previous owner. She also doesn't take kindly to being mentioned in publications, as we learned via several angry phone calls to Gut Check Central. (Ruh-roh. Here we go again...)
6. Open Before 8 a.m. Because 24-hour bars aren't legal in the St. Louis metro area, it helps to open as early as possible. Not just for drinkers who like to get an early start, but for third shifters who would like happy hour when others are reaching for a different kind of morning brew. Foley's in Belleville boasted a 6 a.m. customer on St. Patrick's Day, and there's rarely a day when the lot isn't half-full at coffee time.
7. Don't Clean too Often Are you kidding? All St. Louis-area dive bars are so clean you could eat a pickled egg off the floor.
8. Keep it Dark. Despite being located in a well-illuminated strip mall, Sappington Lounge's heavy blinds ensure that not a drop of bright autumn sunset leaks into the bar.
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