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Candice Does the World

Crave

Show some love for the dive bar

Candice Walsh explains getting hit on while wearing sweatpants

Dive-bar_head_full_for_exchange

St. John’s is a boozy city. George Street, with more bars and pubs per square foot than any other street in North America, is just a five minute walk from my house. It’s usually the first spot my friends from out of town will want to hit up when they arrive in Newfoundland, and while I enjoy the street myself, I’m quick to admonish them. The same goes for any city: don’t overlook the dive bars.

How to tell if it’s a dive bar

What makes a dive bar? This can be tricky. If a bar announces itself as “the oldest bar in town,” it’s probably not a dive bar. Dives are more discreet.

If the windows have bars over them, it’s probably a dive bar. If the pool table looks like it’s from the 70s, it’s probably a dive bar. If the bartender greets each patron by their first name and immediately serves up their drink choice, it’s probably a dive bar.

If you’re a woman and the men whistle at you as you walk in – even if you’re wearing a sweatshirt and yoga pants – it’s probably a dive bar.

Bonus points if there’s a woodstove.

How to tell if it’s a dive bar

These bars have usually been around for years, maybe decades. The owners and bartenders have probably made the place their lifetime career, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

One of my favourite dive bars -- the Inn of Olde at Quidi Vidi – is actually attached to the owner’s house. If it’s a slow day, the owner will leave the adjoining door open and watch TV while keeping one eye on the bar. When you’re ready for another drink, you amble up to be served, and the owner makes her way over.

These kinds of bars often end up being a sort of museum, but unintentionally. The Inn of Olde is a good example: there is literally not one free inch of wall space anywhere.

You also get to be whoever the hell you want to be. Showing up in your sweatpants? Nobody will judge you, not even a little.

And here’s the kicker: the beer is usually much cheaper. Much, much cheaper.

Get to know the locals

My favourite place to take my friends is Fiddler’s Pub , which is about as dive as dive can get in this city. Men show up as early as 9 AM for a tipple, and I’m fairly certain the place doesn’t shut down until the last patron leaves. Maybe it just doesn’t shut down ever, and that’s why people can be found there at 9 AM.

I’m also fairly certain dive pubs are home to the most colourful people in any locale. I’ve walked in on many a group sing-along or storytelling session at Fiddler’s, although admittedly the stories are usually of a crude nature.

And yet, even though everyone already knows each other (and probably has for years), they’re still eager to welcome new people into the posse.

Bottom line: whether you need new insight into a place or simply someone to sing “Sweet Home Alabama” with, head to your nearest dive. Tell them Candice sent you.

Check out more of Candice on her blog, candicedoestheworld.com.

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