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The Underground bucks the trend of the Dying Dive Bar

Everyone needs a good dive bar in their lives. I’m not talking about a pseudo-dive bar. I’m talking about one that looks a bit seedy, with bar stools that are tattered and torn, where the customers are a bit off, there is relatively no natural lighting… there might be a stage in the corner, or a dusty jukebox. A place that lets one simply melt non-existent into the corner, to watch and wonder about all of the people that filter in and out.

Ever since Roxy’s on Main Street closed, we’ve been looking for a dive bar/dance bar where we could recreate the good old times that we had there. It was The Underground where we finally found a place that we could roll in, banter at the bar, play some ridiculously fun music, dance at will, and not question our surroundings.

Underground is about as divey as it gets. When my wife and I tell people to meet us there, they look at us sideways and say, “The Undeground?” Yes. The Underground is considered a gay bar, just as Roxy’s was considered a lesbian bar. It’s dark and moody, just as some of the customers are. But there are other customers who are bright and soulful. Everyone gets along. It’s not a pick-up joint (unless you want it to be). It’s a place where you might pull up a barstool alongside a drag queen, or karaoke singer (yes, there is a great karaoke night). It’s a place that John Waters (Pink Flamingos) would visit if he was in town. The Underground is unlike any other bar or nightclub in Buffalo.

I was reminded to scratch some thoughts down here, when I read an article that was republished in The article talks about the foreboding death of the dive bar. It’s true. While neighborhood book stores and vinyl shops are making a comeback, dive bars are being stricken from the face of many cities, including Buffalo. No more Golden Key. No more Golden Swan. No more Swan Lounge. While it’s incredible to see new life breathed into vanquished neighborhoods, part of Buffalo’s Rust Belt luster is biting the dust in the process.

It’s tough to recreate the natural seedy ambiance of a dive bar. That’s why I occasionally gravitate to places like The Underground, when the mood strikes. And if the mood is right, I know that I’m probably in for the long haul. Something is going to happen out of the ordinary, because it’s too easy to slip into an altered state when that right song comes on. And the next day I’m apt to be a bit cloudy. Dive bars are notorious black holes.

Heading to The Underground is always an adventure, even if there are only two people in the joint. The bar has its own persona, which means that you’re always in good company. Recently, after a Buffalo Rising holiday party, a group of us headed to The Underground, which was the first time for almost everyone. When my friends walked in, their eyes collectively lit up. They had driven by The Underground countless times, yet never walked in. A couple of folks headed straight to the bar . Others wandered off to examine the jukebox. Before long, the entire group was mixing and mingling with the regulars and the bartenders who were happy to see new faces.

If a photo of a buff dude makes you cringe, or you have a distaste for gay bars in general, The Underground is not for you. If you’re up for having a boatload of fun, dancing the night away, feeling like you’ve stumbled across a secret cavern filled with all sorts of curiosities, I suggest that you pay a visit. Bring some friends, introduce yourselves to the bartenders, hit the dance floor, and ignore the people that look at you sideways when you tell them that you’re heading to one of the few remaining dive bars in the city. As I mentioned earlier, the Underground is about as divey as it gets… and hopefully it stays that way.

The Underground | 274 Delaware Avenue | Buffalo, New York

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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