What makes a dive bar a dive bar? First of all, there should be a relaxed atmosphere with no pressure to dress up or have a certain appearance. Second, it has to have friendly staff, bartenders and clientele. And, finally, it should possess a late-night sleaziness that makes you want to stick around to see what happens.
5 Star Saloon — Photo courtesy of Reno Tahoe/Flickr
Most of these Reno dive bars are located downtown or within just a few blocks of downtown, so you can walk from your casino hotel if you are in the mood for some nighttime fun. If you are in town for a Reno Aces baseball game, visit the Lincoln Lounge for their outdoor patio and their massive beer selection. Close to the Lincoln Lounge and near the Truckee River is the Foxy Olive, which is known for its friendly patrons, bartenders and some creative drinks such as the Julia Cooper.
Directly downtown is the El Cortez Lounge, attached to the hotel of the same name. It's a blue-collar lounge with mirrors on the wall that absolutely reeks of dive bar. This place can get pretty crazy during karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights.
Just down the street, in the Reno Arts District, is the 5 Star Saloon. As one of the only gay bars downtown, it's low-key and accepting of all types during the week. On the weekends, it heats up with a large crowd of men and women dancing in cages and participating in strip shows onstage.
The Chapel Tavern — Photo courtesy of Reno Tahoe/Flickr
The Chapel Tavern in MidTown (about a 10 minute drive from downtown) is not your typical dive bar. This small brick building exudes a homey and relaxed atmosphere. The bar has an excellent beer selection and specialty cocktails with interesting mixers like rosemary syrup.