Earlier this week, Washingtonian reported about a speakeasy opening on K Street NW — a location that instantly invokes images of lawyers and lobbyists — with many familiar trappings of the Prohibition-era theme: a labyrinth of an entrance, a secret door to an underground space, and cocktail artists from some of the most respected mixology incubators in town.
But, for some reason, it also wants to be part-dive, adding to the online discourse of what defines the category — a conversation that heated up in response to an Eater article about a new Dupont Circle bar calling itself Dive, although it is most definitely not a dive under any reasonable definition of the term.
The Mirror is located in the former home of a bar called the Speak, which was notably shut down twice for operating without a liquor license. It aims to drop its speakeasy pretenses by forbidding passwords, dress codes, and reservations. Co-owner Seth McClelland told Washingtonian this is all an attempt to “bring that dive bar element,” which the Mirror will further boost by serving actual Lunchables instead of charcuterie boards.
The illegal history of the place and the total absence of natural light add dive bar points. But it sure feels unseemly for people to pair $13 cocktails — stirred by alumni of award-winning Columbia Room and posh hotel watering hole Quill — with processed cheese and crackers all to feel like an everyman.
News of the Mirror’s opening came at a time when internet outrage over the incoming Dive in Dupont was still fresh. DCist ran a quiz asking readers to determine which Dive offerings were real and which were made up (the $7 Pabst Blue Ribbons cans and the $225 bottle service are real). Brightest Young Things ran a post asking, is Dive a real bar?
People tweeted. Thousands of people liked and retweeted those tweets.
Friend: What’s D.C. like?— Jason Shevrin (@jasonshevrin) December 13, 2018
So this is it. The worst possible bar. pic.twitter.com/qvY15tzEGq— Robert Mariani ☃️ (@robert_mariani) December 16, 2018
DC is populated entirely by humans who have heard reports about “life” and would like to possibly visit it one day https://t.co/lb8sjLFqST— BUM CHILLUPS (@edsbs) December 17, 2018
This episode of very-online culture wasn’t too far removed from an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweet that brought the dive bar debate to life. The congressmember’s tweet was ostensibly about how young workers in the House and the Senate shouldn’t have to work in dives on the side to make ends meet. It had a side effect of inspring online chatter about how D.C. doesn’t have any “real” dive bars.
This week I went to dive spot in DC for some late night food. I chatted up the staff.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) December 3, 2018
SEVERAL bartenders, managers, & servers *currently worked in Senate + House offices.*
This is a disgrace. Congress of ALL places should raise MRAs so we can pay staff an actual DC living wage.
Dear God the last thing we need is yet another insufferable debate over what qualifies a bar as a dive and whether D.C. has any. https://t.co/RL4VqUJeiX— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) December 3, 2018
In a 2017 article exploring the subject for the Washington Post, Tim Carman and Fritz Hahn developed the following criteria for dive bars: “Dives must have history. They must have regulars. They cannot be expensive. They cannot have craft cocktails.” Depending on who you ask, there could be many amendments.
At their core, dive bars are democratic. They don’t cater only to the upper crust. That’s where Dive and the Mirror fall short.
- K Street’s Hidden “Speakeasy” Is Back With Classic Cocktails and…Lunchables [Washingtonian]
- DC Speakeasy Keeps Having Trouble With Its Liquor License [Washingtonian]
- Quiz: Is This An Offering At Dupont’s New ‘Dive’ Bar, Or Something Ridiculous We Made Up? [DCist]
- Is Dive a real bar? [BYT]
- The best true dive bars in the D.C. area [TWP]