By Charlene Arsenault
In college, Alec Lopez read a book that changed his life. Called Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow, he’s genuinely tried to live his life that way, and, it seems to be working out.
As owner of The Dive Bar (as well as the more recently-opened Armsby Abbey) on Green Street, Lopez is one of those guys – not unlike Vincent Hemmeter – who draws people in just by being himself.
Hanging at the Dive can still feel like one of those best kept secrets that isn’t quite so secret anymore – a local gem that townies bring their out-of-town guests to for a beer. The intimate, tavern-like pub that focuses on serving up microbrews and craft beers evolved from a college kids’ meat market to something of a hipster hang, without the pretension. In fact, the vibe is so “ridiculously chill” there that Lopez is reluctant to want to talk about it to the media. He has never advertised for that very reason. Still, Lopez explains that achieving the vibe was one of the most patient and deliberate acts of his life.
“I started converting the bar to fit my personality,” he says, “slowly changing the beer selection, slowly changing the music. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. The most important lesson I’ve learned about the Worcester night scene is if you do anything, be deliberate and unfaltering.”
Not only does the Dive thrive in the colder months, but with the new fenced-in patio outback, it is becoming one of the most inviting places to hangwhen the summer hits. Lopez bought The Dive about four years ago, and began work on the outside “Beer Garden” last year, just about the same time Armsby Abbey was opening.Though the patio technically isn’t finished yet, it’s open, and Lopez has some big plans for improvement on it in the coming months. “The patio is big,” says Lopez, who is also opening the bakery Crust soon, too. “It’s the largest outside in Worcester, definitely. We still have quite a bit of landscaping to do. And we’re doing a mural on the back wall as well as building a stage and adding some lighting. The Dive has no equal, inside or out. We are an oasis in the city. My customers are always appreciative and grateful for The Dive. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to have poured my soul into this little corner bar and have it be so appreciated.”
The music, too, is key. With help from Duncan Arsenault and bartender Jeremy Curtis, the three of them “only book amazing talents.” Monday nights, Al Vaudreuil leadsa cast of jazz musicians. Thursdays, of course, have been popular for years with drummer Arsenault’s rotating slew of musician mixes, bringing in the likes of Scott Ricciuti, Michael Thibodeau, Troy Gonyea, Brooks Milgate and Jon Short, and various other combinations, on a regular basis. Weekends bring inbands such as The Cassavettes, The Weisstronauts, Gilded Splinters, the Delta Generators, Bow Thayer and the PerfectTrain Wreck, The Howl, The Hurricane Horns and more. To him, he says it’s the only venue in the city with an uncompromising program.
And he uses the same approach in choosing his brews. The Dive currently has 16 taps, 80 bottles and one cask.
“I was raised with a ‘slowfood’ philosophy,” says Lopez. “That encompasses all aspects of my life. As a chef, I’m extremely careful with selecting only the finest and freshest ingredients. As a consumer, it’s no different. Why anyone would drink a Bud or the like is beyond me; these are products brewed with the cheapest ingredients money can buy for maximum profit. It’s fast food. No thanks. I’ll take a hand-crafted brew every time. As for deciding what I carry, I’m a beer geek. I only carry the finest beers from the United States. There are no imports at The Dive.”
The Worcester Telegram Summer Book -2009