Sweet Spot With Mike Sugerman: Are Dive Bars A Dying Breed?

Mike Sugerman
October 11, 2019 - 5:00 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- It could be last call for many New York institutions — the dive bar.

In this week's Sweet Spot, Mike Sugerman takes a deep dive into the troubles they are facing.

Though the price is what makes a dive bar a dive, it won't get owners rich.

"If you're going to go to a bar like on a regular basis and it's not on the company dime you kind of need a dive bar," Patrick Trombly told Sugerman as he was grabbing a drink at Rudy's in Hell Kitchen.

"It's like a church, it's a base camp one to me, if you're going on a mission and you're getting ready to go this is where you come," said artist John McGill.

Rudy's is a dive bar that other dive bars want to be.

"We open at 8 in the morning, we close at 4 in the morning. Only a dive bar is going to open at 8 in the morning, and there's people in line," the bar's general manager, Danny Depamphilis, said.

It's been in business since the 1880s and Christine Sismondo, author of "America Walks Into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops," says it's part of a dying breed.

"One of the big problems obviously is real estate," said Sismondo. "Just the gentrification of these big cities makes it really hard to make a living off of $2 beers."

Not to mention the cost of a liquor license which is $5,000 every two years.

Depamphilis says dive bars are vital to the community.

"They are a fabric of the neighborhood and when they go, the fabric of the neighborhood goes with it," Depamphilis said.

But Rudy's isn't likely to go away soon. It's owner, Jack Ertl, is 91 and his family has owned the place for almost a century.

"This has to be some kind of Guinness Book of Records, a man who owns a bar and has been drinking in the bar that he owns for almost 75 years," Depamphilis said.