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Another D.C. Bar Wants to Mimic a Dive

Being anti-trendy is apparently becoming a trend

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The Mirror speakeasy is in the former location of the Speak, shown here, on K Street NW.
Eater file photo

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.

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.

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.

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