Ah, dive bars. The neighborhood bar where everyone knows your name. Where drinkers from all walks of life can come together and share their love for cheap beer, conversation, and a few games of Naked Photo Hunt.
Whether your 21 or 70, if you drink, chances are you’ve found yourself in a dive bar or two. Like them or not, they’re an integral part of our society’s culture and history.
Amanda Lynn, a dive bar enthusiast, was kind enough to talk to us about creating Philadelphia’s popular and unique dive bar blog, Dive Bartender.
N: So, what is Dive Bartender?
A: The Dive Bartender website is kind of like an online profile where I would write about these bars from a bartender’s point of view... from an industry standard, not just like a Yelp review or anything like that. So, this was a more truthful look at the bars where I was working.
I had the idea for it, but I didn’t have the tools to make it happen. I met a web developer who actually put together the site and currently hosts the site.
Dive Bartender actually started with me going across country and picking up guest bartending spots at different bars, pretty much to make it across.
I’ve never been anywhere outside Philadelphia; born and raised in this area in South Jersey. Philly has a great bar scene, so I feel like that kind of inspired me to go out and look for other cool bars that were similar.
N: “How did you start taking Dive Bartender cross country? Did you want to travel across country and Dive Bartender started to really develop”?
A: Yup! I was about 22, maybe 23 when I left. I had saved up about $3k which I thought at that time was a huge savings. Now I don’t know how the hell I made it across country! [laughter] I drove a Chevy work van, 2001, which I also got into customizing vans later down the line.
It was really cool going across country because even if I didn’t get a guest bartending spot at places, just telling each bar what I did, they would normally buy me a beer or a drink which was amazing. Not expected.
I’ve used the site to get into Cuba. I got a Visa to Cuba under a journalism pass just documenting the bars I went to over there. I was aiming for scummy. I like dive bars. It’s Dive Bartender. I put value behind places that have a nitch that’s quirky or unique to that city, or the history to that city. I’m real into history so I try to focus on that.
Bars are a big part of history. Philadelphia has a lot of examples of that. Like in Philly, bars used to have pee troughs. And back in the day, women weren’t allowed at the actual bar, because mainly the dudes were just pissing right there and Philly supported this. Anthony’s café on Girard still has a working one! [laughter]
Also, Marine Corp was started in Philadelphia over at Tun Tavern which isn’t there anymore because it got set on fire back in Abraham Lincoln days.
The Tun Tavern was down the street from the White House, which used to be in Philadelphia, too, fun fact. They believe the same rebellion burned them both down the same night, fun fact!
N: “Can you tell us about some Dive Bartender events, such as Fucking Useless Generation Thursdays and Gogo Rock Sunday”?
A: “Often I collaborate with other people for ideas, but these events are mainly to get people to come through the door. Anyone who gets involved in my events, I try to find somebody who has a following of some sort that fits in with what I’m doing.
FUGT, we figured the name could mean whatever you want it to mean. You could make it whatever FUGT stands for. It could be... fucking... unicorn genetics or something. [laughter] We had a human wheel we brought on stage, and we would spin the wheel and land on a challenge. Whoever spun the wheel had to take the challenge and we would reward everybody or just the person who spun the wheel depending on how they completed the challenge. I don’t think we had anybody who didn’t accept the challenge which was a success in itself because a lot of them were ridiculous.
Anyone who’s pushing the envelope in Philly or doing things that are somewhat offensive. [laughter] I do like the shock value of my events. I try to make them... stuff that you don’t see going on in every bar. Bars that let us get away with a lot of stuff.
We had one challenge where we had two people stand on the bar and sing the star spangled banner... butt ass naked. And whoever finished it word for word won. The girl won, the guy was from France and just stumbled in and became a member. He didn’t know the star spangled banner at all.
Gogo Rock Sunday is something we used to do at Boyler Room, so we’re bringing it back at Kung Fu Necktie.
We’re just going to do it one Sunday out of the month.
The first one is going to be after the Tattoo Convention. We got lucky because I guess there was no tattoo convention after party on Sunday.
N: “What’s your favorite Dive Bar”?
A: I have a ton of favorites around the country. That’s a hard one because I feel like it changes on a regular basis.
To me, a dive bar is like a corner bar where you can walk in, talk to everybody, make friends. Then leave, and 5 years later everybody still remembers your name.
My all time favorite dive bar that is no longer in existence but will forever by to blame for Dive Bartender was Mako’s.
Hands down, that can go on record as the top dive bar ever to exist. The Republican is on the top of the list there, too.
N: “What is the weirdest or worst experience at an event or developing Dive Bartender?”
A: That’s a hard one. I love my job and I love the bar scene. I think the hardest thing I have to deal with is when my friends get shitty past the point of reason. Business is business and personal is personal and I keep that separate. When I have to maybe break up a fight between 2 friends, I will generally just say their both wrong and have to tell them both to leave. That’s just a random scenario, but It’s not a personal thing and I try to keep it as impersonal as possible.
I’ve gotten called out on a personal level and I hate that. It is still my job at the end of the day, so it’s not like I’m taking sides. I just have to make a living.
N: “Since starting Dive Bartender, what are some things you learned or would have done differently”?
A: Anyone will give you a job on the internet! [laughter] Before the website was in full effect, it was hard for me to land gigs. The second I got the website, if I wasn’t landing a gig, I was bought food and a drink which was awesome.
So, the website definitely helped make that happen.
I definitely would have documented everything better. I did do a lot of documentation, but I would have loved to have had a notebook the whole time and just been writing stuff down as it went.
So, if anybody out there starts something like that, do more than just take pictures and write it all down.
Thank you again for chatting with us, Amanda! To learn more about Drive Bartender and Amanda’s upcoming events, be sure to check it all out at www.divebartender.com