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Dive Bar

So New Year’s is upon us. We’ll either go to a late night church service, or to a friend’s house, or stay home, right? Nope, some will go to a dive. Now I’ve gotta explain my naiveté on dives. The English language is pretty bizarre, we use the same word for multiple meanings, and dive is one of those. I’ve always thought that a dive was a dump or a nasty place, sort of like my ex-law school roommate’s bedroom. He was a slob. But living here in pure, pristine Middle Georgia, I sort of knew that a dive could be a bar, that was in the back of my mind anyway, but I’d never heard of a law about dives.

Houston County and it’s three municipalities don’t address “dives” in their code, but our friends in Macon do. Now, to be fair, if you were going to pick a place likely to have a dive, it’d be Macon. They have a lot more nightlife than we do. They don’t roll up the sidewalks at dark and they’ve been in the high jinks business since before the War of British Aggression. I mean, they named a tourist attraction the Cannonball House, for goodness sakes. All it takes is a cannon ball blowing in your front door and rolling down the hallway, and presto, you’ve got a tourist attraction. So it’s clear they know how to party. Us? We drop a dead buzzard at midnight and call that a party.

So back to a “dive.” In Macon, it is defined as A “dive” is defined as any place or establishment where: (1) Legal alcoholic beverages are sold without a proper license or permit; or illegal alcoholic beverages, or other illegal drugs are found, possessed, kept or sold; or illegal gambling activities are being conducted; or (2) Any person is permitted to: a. Come and purchase or consume any otherwise legal alcoholic liquid sold without a proper permit or license, or…” (consume or sell any illegal liquor, or drugs, or gambling or generally having fun engaging in sin. I had to shorten it up, it goes on for a while. It’s actually longer than Georgia’s murder statute, and that’s just the definition.

A dive can be either residential or commercial, it can be in the basement or in the penthouse. If the proprietor is charging for alcohol (or drugs or gambling) and has no license to do so, it’s a dive, no matter how fancy the place is. But the general visual is that a dive is a dump.

Macon’s ordinance goes on to say that not only is the proprietor in trouble for running a dive, but the occupants are in trouble for being in a dive, sorta. “It shall be unlawful for any person to enter, visit or be present in a “dive” as defined in this section, for purposes of: (1) Selling, purchasing or consuming any legal alcoholic beverage sold without a proper permit or license; or (2) Selling, purchasing or consuming any illegal alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs; or (3) Participating in any illegal gambling activities.”

So, just being in a dive to watch the drunks and stoners doesn’t appear to be a crime. But if you partake of the booze or drugs or gambling activities then you’ve committed a crime. Over the years, I’ve been to my fair share of parties (mostly in law school) where the greatest entertainment was to watch the drunks, and in Macon, that is legal. But being the drunk, in a dive, is illegal.

As you plan your New Year’s Eve festivities, consider that you now know that a dive could be your nemesis on party night. Before you read this column, you could have said that you didn’t know that dives were illegal, but alas, now you are slightly smarter than before. Happy New Year!

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