Running down underground to a dive bar in Welly-town
A few Wellingtonistas recently had occasion to discuss the possibilities for getting a drink – a serious drink, mind, not a Mimosa or Bloody Mary – at 9:30am on a Monday. Now we’d hate to advocate heavy drinking to anyone (though it’s always worked for us), and none of our speculation should be seen as in any way suggesting that these establishments would set you up for a pre-elevenses binge. But there are mornings that definitely call for a slug of something medicinal, so we considered this a very reasonable request, one that any city worthy of the name should be able to fulfil. And yet we were stumped.
There are a few cafés around that might happily grant you a tot from the stash intended for “special” coffees, and somewhere like Scopa could assist with a bracing glass of grappa to finish off breakfast in proper continental style. But even if the likes of Meow suggest a more raffish and boozer-friendly ambience, there’s something discordant about knocking it back when surrounded by lattes, fluffies and disgustingly perky breakfast meetings. What we’re looking for is a dive bar.
Do such things even exist in New Zealand? Sure, there are a few old sticky-carpet pubs that have retained their grottiness against the tide of gentrification, such as the Stadium Bar, Lovelocks and to some extent The Cambridge, but I’m thinking something more along the lines of a battered bar-top, dark spirits on the rocks and wisecracking bartenders, rather than formica leaners, jugs of Lion Brown and Sky TV.
Is that more of an American and European thing? Does it require an established urban working class, rather than a rural or suburban drinking heritage? I can think of a few similar spots, but they’re very much late-night and gig-oriented (such as Medusa, Fringe Bar, SFBH and Bodega) rather than haunts for the midweek barfly. There are other disreputable boozeholes, but they tend to be aimed at students and backpackers, all Jaeger Bombs and whooping pubescents, rather than world-weary soaks lamenting divorces and politics over a couple of whiskies.
But give us your suggestions, fellow barflies. Where’s your favourite refuge for a pre-lunch tipple? And what are the dive-iest dive bars in town?