We catch a lot of flak for introducing readers to classic, hidden, and out of the way watering holes around the country. Many readers have admonished us for alerting tourists to their favorite bars, insisting that now the places will be crowded with gawking yokels drawn to the spot because of our article (flattering, actually).
A commenter on our article about New Orleans' Snake & Jake's Christmas Club Lounge simply told us to knock it off and keep these finds to ourselves.
But here's the honest truth: dive bars, classic and new, are disappearing at a blinding rate in the United States, and if you honestly love your favorite neighborhood watering hole, then you'll do everything necessary to save it - you'll even be willing to kill it.
What do we mean by "kill" it?
Simply this: you've got to be willing to tell others about it, publicize, and otherwise open it up to the gawking yokels you despise so much. Sure, it will "kill" the vibe that brought you there in the first place, but it may keep the bar around longer.
In a recent Newsweek article, writer Alexander Nazaryan makes clear the plight of the dive bar in today's major cities. Simply put, they are closing across the United States. In fact, he says we're facing an "epidemic" of closings. Laura Holson paints a similar picture about New York's dive bars in a New York Times article.
The epidemic they discuss is, unfortunately, an almost natural progression. Most of these old, broken down bars are built in the less desirable neighborhoods of America's cities. Over time, drawn by the low rent prices, these areas start attracting more trendy establishments willing to take a chance.
Then, young families and professionals begin moving in. Little by little the once decrepit section of town faces full-blown gentrification - it becomes the hot place to relocate.
And so the lonely holdout of skid row - the neighborhood dive - finds itself surrounded by galleries, coffee shops and cafes. And then the rent skyrockets. And they are forced to close.
But is this true for all old dives?
The answer is no.
McSorley's Old Ale House in Manhattan's Bowery will probably never close. Neither will Chicago's Green Mill or Oakland's Heinold's First and Last Chance.
Simple: because they are destinations, not just bars.
Each of these is in area guidebooks (and not just ours). They are recommended to visitors by friends who've visited. They are noted to tourists when they check into their hotels. They are, in short, NOT hidden or out of the way.
And that, we think, is the secret to saving these places: to not hide them, but to celebrate them.
That's why we wrote our book in the first place. That's why we travel as often as possible to find these places and tell you about them. We want people to go to them because we want to keep them open. We believe that as they become more popular it will likewise become more difficult for landlords and others to force them to close.
Sure, you might not like the tourists who wander in on occasion, but you'd probably like it less if the place simply vanished forever, replaced by an upscale fashion boutique or chain restaurant.
So if you want to save your bar from closing, help it out and tell people about it.