Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Giving Dive Bars a Bad Name

Hiatt House
Livingston, Montana

Experience has taught Suit 69 that a good rule of thumb to follow when looking for restaurants is find someplace that's been around awhile.

If the sign outside says "since 1973,"  it's probably good.

If it says "since 1923," it's probably better.

So when I crashed through the doors of the Hiatt House in Livingston, Montana looking to drain a couple of cold ones, I thought I'd be in for a treat.

The place screamed "dive bar."

The building was obviously old and worn down.  The interior lighting was bad.  The floors were ripped linoleum.

The bar top wasn't wood.  It wasn't granite.

In fact, it was barely even Formica.

It looked like spray-painted particle board.

Not necessarily a bad start.  In fact, all these things could be good.

Restaurants and bars that don't spend money on decor usually offer really good food or really good times.

But when I saw the one television in the place -- not even turned to sports -- I thought to myself, "Whoa.  This could go either way."

I sat down, and struck up a conversation with the bartender, asking him how long they'd been there.  He just said, "years and years."

"Nice," I thought.  

I ordered a shot of Jim Beam and asked the bartender what his beer selection was like.

"Budweiser.  Bud Light.  Miller Light.  Coors Light."


Some areas in the country, this is normal.  But Montana is in the Northwest United States.

Walk into any gas station in this area and you see one beer cooler with American puke beers and three others devoted solely to microbrews.

Not having even a single craft beer on tap is unacceptable to say the least -- especially because Hiatt House is ONLY a bar and doesn't even serve food.

I ordered a pint of Coors Light to go with my Beam.

When the bartender came back, he said "$9.50."

"Whaaaaaat?" I thought.  That's pretty steep for a beer and a shot at a dive bar.

Just the a couple of nights earlier, I went to a much nicer bar across the street -- The Mint -- that had a much better beer selection and was cheaper too.

And isn't the WHOLE POINT of dive bars getting hammered without breaking the bank?

Nevertheless, I reached into my wallet, pulled out my card and asked to start a tab.

"We don't take plastic.  There's an ATM over there if you don't have cash."



Crappy beer selection, lame decor, one TV, high prices AND they don't take plastic?

I looked around, and the answer is no.  There were no strippers and you could not buy drugs.

I have no idea how they stay in business.

I drained my beer and my shot, paid and left.

Suit 69 is ok with a little lameness. 

After all, every "dive bar" has to have its own special crappiness to give it character and make it lovable -- like having to hit the bathroom door a special way to get it to open or something.

But when there isn't even a bathroom and you have to pee in the jukebox, they're not so lovable any more.

Rating:  Clean Grill With Shirt

1 comment:

  1. Looked up the joint on Yelp just for fun and found a review you might agree with: "This place is known to locals as the "knife and gun club" and there are reasons for that. Bartenders have been seen finishing drinks left by patrons. Unknown when the last time the place was cleaned. If I could make my review less than one star, I would."