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Dive Bars Revisited

After I wrote about dive bars in DC last week, Alex Block made a few good points in the comments. DC's general lack of dive bars, he says, is the result of zoning and restrictions that make it really difficult to open new drinking establishments in the District.

(from Mr. T in DC on Flickr)

Ryan Avent has shared some thoughts on this topic in the past.
In the Washington area, you can’t have a place that’s both really good and quiet in a neighborhood-y sort of way. That’s largely because it’s very difficult to open new bars. And the result is a pernicious feedback loop. With too few bars around, most good bars are typically crowded. This crowdedness alienates neighbors, and it also has a selecting effect on the types of people who choose to go to bars — those interested in a loud, rowdy environment, who will often tend to be loud and rowdy. This alienates neighbors even more, leading to tighter restrictions still and exacerbating the problem.
Ultimately, I think DC's lack of quality dive bars is a combination or economic and political consequences. It's true that it's very difficult, legally, to open a bar in DC - but I still think there's concern that even if you could open a bar anywhere you wanted in the city, high rents for many retail spaces would make it fairly difficult for a divey bar to thrive.

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