Was this Boca Raton “dive bar” one of the first in the United States?

The Dive Bar as the last holdout in the old Boca Raton Mall (1989 file photo/Thomas Graves)
The Dive Bar as the last holdout in the old Boca Raton Mall (1989 file photo/Thomas Graves)

Should a neighborhood, chill-out bar be considered a “dive bar”? The premise of a new article on the website Thrillist suggests that letting any Cheers-like joint be labeled a dive bar is an insult to genuine dive bars. They aren’t the kind of places where everybody knows your name. They are dank, dark dumps where you don’t even use your real name.

As writer T.S. Flynn notes in his article: “Dives aren’t hip, and they aren’t the kind of place where listicle readers drink.”

Related: 7 best dive bars in the Florida Keys

We’ll drink to that. But here’s a funny factoid buried in the same article: Today’s noxious trend of non-dive dive bars may have started in, of all places, Boca Raton. As Flynn notes:

By the end of the ’80s, the term “dive” even began appearing in the names of new drinking establishments — a trend that, regrettably, continues to this day. One of the first, Christy’s Dive Bar in Boca Raton, FL, opened in a shopping mall in 1987. “I liked the idea of a casual, come-as-you-are, regular-guy place,” owner Allen Christy told the Boca Raton News. Of course, it took more than…a mall bar in Boca to turn “dive” into a wildly misapplied and overused appellation. 

The writer basically blames “dive bar” overuse on Guy Fieri’s popular Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show and Mickey Rourke movies like “Barfly.” Anyway, we did a “deep dive” (in the parlance of modern, corporate-speak) and discovered that Christy’s had an interesting past.

The Dive Bar greets a lone lunch customer as the last tenant in the Boca Raton Mall. (1989 file photo/Thomas Graves)
The Dive Bar greets a lone lunch customer as the last tenant in the Boca Raton Mall. (1989 file photo/Thomas Graves)

Two years after it opened in the Boca Raton Mall, owner Allen Christy was the last holdout when a developer wanted to tear down the shopping plaza in 1989. Christy had a 10-year lease and didn’t want to go. He put up signs saying: “Stop The Rumors! The Dive Bar will be here for at least 8 1/2 more years!”

He also said the Dive Bar was “the busiest nightclub in South Florida,” and claimed that live music nights of reggae and post-punk made it a magnet for nearby Florida Atlantic University college students.

The Post’s Ron Kozlowski reported that the place had a certain desperado appeal:

    The Dive Bar name is illustrated by a huge mural that features a diver wearing a Capt. Nemo helmet on the ocean floor. The bar is long and narrow with a high ceiling covered by exposed pipes and air-conditioning equipment. A 130-foot bar runs along the right side, and a row of unpainted wooden booths hugs the opposite wall, which is decorated with hanging nautical ropes, a 14-foot-long Atlantic blue marlin and assorted bumper stickers. Most advertise the bar. Others identify radio stations or urge patrons to “party till you puke.” The floor is bare concrete speckled with splotches of flattened, dried chewing gum stuck to it…The beverage of choice is Budweiser, but dollar shots of liquor and mixed drinks are sold, too. 

So, maybe this Thrillist writer got it wrong. Maybe Christy’s Dive Bar really was a dive bar. After all, holding out against The Man to operate a nautical-themed, shots-and-beer speakeasy in the middle of a suburban mall in decline is kind of a dive bar-ish move. It could even be a Buffett song.

Allen Christy poses in front of The Dive Bar's mural. (1989 file photo/Thomas Graves)
Allen Christy poses in front of The Dive Bar’s mural. (1989 file photo/Thomas Graves)

In the end, the bar’s demise was relatively swift. After a lawsuit and counterclaims and disputed numbers about its financial value, an out-of-court settlement was reached. The dive bar took a dive. Nothing stops a wrecking ball in South Florida.

And why did that developer want to tear down the Boca mall in the first place?

To build Mizner Park, the pink, upscale behemoth where, to this day, you’ll never find anything approaching a dive bar, even in name.



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