Live Wire founders Sam Chammas and Joe Austin have historically not taken too kindly to the label of ‘dive bar’ attached to their 1992 San Diego creation. But the moniker here is provided with love and recognition for the unrelenting level of authenticity infused into the space and its operations. When Chammas and Austin took over the space, they brought with their leadership a recognition of the growing popularity of craft beer, installing 10 taps at a time when doing so wasn’t entirely commonplace (the count today is 24).
Friends from their days at San Diego State, the bar’s namesake is the campus radio station Chammas and Austin worked at, “Live Wire” KCR. Considering the 1992 open date, the dive bar sign above the front door is particularly impressive, conjuring the feeling of a very old school illuminated sign inscribed with the words “Cold Beer” and “Warm Friends.” The space is hard to miss, painted bright red, the color consistently applied to Live Wire both inside and out.
The draft beer taps pop out in the red-lit space thanks to the collage of stickers behind them. The area serves as a sort of alter to dive bar knick-knacks and posters, a box of Simpsons Krusty O’s mingling with a few Hamm’s beer cans. Red booths line one wall of the space, paired with the red-tinged lighting to create a divey, dark lounge feeling. The Live Wire jukebox accentuates the atmosphere, a set of indie and punk offerings catering to a crowd that may or may not call Live Wire a dive bar but gravitate to its no-nonsense vibe either way.