Dive Bars: The Original Beer Gangsters

By: Danielle Yurkew and Katherine Wzorek

It is the tale of two cities — New York and Philadelphia. While both face gentrification, some bars choose to keep it old school. Worn-in traditions — such as weekly drag shows, smoking, or graffiti-covered pool tables make these places timeless. Meet some of patrons, bartenders, and performers that help to define these dive bars.

Bob & Barbara’s in South Philadelphia celebrates the start of Pride Month with their weekly drag performance (6/1/2017)
Sapphira Cristal describes what it feels like to perform at Bob & Barbara’s (6/1/2017)

Bob & Barbara’s, South Philadelphia

Neon lights reflect off the mirrored heels of Philly’s finest drag performers. Welcome to Bob & Barbara’s, home of the longest running drag show in Philadelphia. For the past 24 years, LGBTQ community members and allies have gathered here to see drag queens sing and perform top-hit songs. Everyone cracks open a few beers while making it rain dollar bills on their favorite Queens.

Scenes from the New York and Philadelphia bar scenes. Far right, Mitch Lacsamana at Tattooed Mom (5/27/2017)
Scenes from Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, South Philadelphia 5/20/2017

Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, South Philadelphia

Walk in to Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, and you will suddenly be ensconced in a cloud of smoke. At Ray’s, smoking indoors is still allowed. Patrons and bartenders alike spend the night shooting back Yuenglings while passing a lighter back and forth. Ray’s traditions are audible and visible. It lingers in the slow puff of a cigarette as a bartender greets everyone with a Happy Birthday.

Lou Capazzoli, owner of Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, talks about keeping traditions in the form of cigarettes and cheap drinks.

Tattooed Mom, South Philadelphia

Tattooed Mom lives up to the name. Its walls are plastered with layers of posters, paintings, and bumper stickers — a permanent inking.

This is a place of attitude and quirk. Dum Dum lollipops are scattered throughout any flat surface. Pool tables and rock music populate the second floor. Vegan pierogies with a variety of dipping sauces are the Thursday special. Many of the bartenders and patrons mirror the cool persona of Tattooed Mom.


Meet Ryan Pasquale, bartender at Tattooed Mom. He stares into my soul in between making mixed drinks in white, Maneki-Neko (lucky cat) shaped mugs.

“What’s your least favorite drink to make?” “Long Island Iced Tea.”
“Why?” “Because the person buying it is usually a piece of shit.”


Olivia Marchesani (left) and Kristie Pagliaro Matt (right) came to Tattooed Mom for a few drinks after work. Both work at The Strange & Unusual, an oddities

parlor located on 4th St in South Philly.

I asked, “what kind of oddities do you sell?” Kristie replied, “dead stuff. We’re taxidermists.”

Cheers to the dive bar.