BY SARA HAVENS
The other night my friends and I sat at the Mag Bar contemplating the finer aspects of dive bars. We had been to Proof earlier in the evening and were appalled at the $8 we had to fork over for one Absolut drink. Sure, we were mesmerized by the fancy bathrooms of the finer establishment; the interesting and interactive art (tuned up for election season); the chance to rub elbows with important peeps stopping through town and the ones entertaining them; and the friendly, competent staff. But $8 for one drink? Pay day it was not. Our evening allowance was nearly shot.
So on down Third Street we went, landing at the Mag Bar at Second and Magnolia. The order: two pints of Miller Lite and two shots of Makers. The cost: $12. The smile on my face: priceless. We snuck away to a quiet, dark booth, satisfied about how far our dollar went. (My Absolut friend was also happy to find her drink at half the price.) We were comfortable, content and contemplative. We discussed many things — from ample cuddle-time to Ani DiFranco — and then the conversation led to this (after returning from a trip to the restroom): How much are you willing to sacrifice to get a better deal? What amenities can you do without? Clean bathrooms? Friendly service? Stable chairs?
I was OK with overlooking the standing water around the toilet, and the squashed roach (of the bug variety) in the corner didn’t faze me. Proof it was not. But familiar, cozy and interesting it was. Dives certainly aren’t for everyone — I’ve seen some pretty nasty things at dive bars, including bathrooms that don’t lock, bathrooms that substitute shower curtains for doors or, simply, bathrooms with no doors at all. Yet we stayed, drank for cheap and met some interesting characters.
This is by no means a diss to Proof or other high-end places in Louisville. There is room here for all types — and on occasion I enjoy dressing up and getting lost in fancy debate. But knowing there’re some dark corners in this town where I can escape makes me happy — roach or not.