You'll be forgiven for getting enthralled by the highly reflective decor.
As with any urban, downtown area, there comes a transition from the fancy restaurant / martini bar part of town into considerably more reasonably priced and infinitely more interesting options. The Asheville downtown core is a beautiful place well-stocked with bars and restaurants, but the Lazy Diamond exists on its fringe, a fact well translated to its eclectic dive bar existence. Of course tinsel fringe, a spacious dance floor and vintage arcade games don’t hurt.
The Lazy Diamond opened in 2014 as the sister bar to crosstown and amazing dive bar Double Crown operated by the same owners. Chris Bower and Steve Mann co-own both locations and do so as Asheville natives, a trait easily seen in the way each dive bar strives to reflect the strong community vibe that runs through the city. A devotion to Asheville proper, so to speak, is an important dive bar trait given the city’s explosion in tourist traffic and associated development spurred by external funding.
One disclaimer for those interested in visiting the Lazy Diamond that there are sources online that claim the location is closed, stemming from a February 2021 decision to shut down. Rest assured the Asheville dive bar has since reopened, taking the time to weather the tail end of the strictest of the pandemic’s restrictions before resuming operations. The location plays into some of the mystery as well, just a bit past the real core of Asheville’s downtown district and situated on a slope with the dive bar’s name attached to a simple black awning slightly obscured by the front patio’s tiki-style umbrellas.
And as with many of Asheville’s best drinking options, great care has been applied to the front patio, an area well populated thanks to Asheville’s fairly friendly climate. Here, the seating is made up of picnic tables and grass-style umbrellas, some additional padded bench seating running along one of the dive bar’s exterior walls. At night, large red bulb Christmas lights play off of black painted brick, bathing the front patio area in a soft red light in perfect dive bar fashion. The patio here is long enough to pack a pretty decent-sized crowd.
The best dive bars are the ones that defy explanation and the sheer density of light, decoration and relentless waves of reflective tinsel along the ceiling makes Lazy Diamond difficult to accurately capture. I mean this as a compliment, sincerely, that the best analogy I can think of is Lazy Diamond feeling a bit like a dive bar in the center of a cruise ship where the staff hangs out and talks about the tourists they had to serve that night. The place feels like a gilded bunker, the tinsel playing off of Christmas lights playing off of the mirrored bar area that runs the length of the space. Multi-colored Christmas lights blend into a soft red glow that mirrors the patio, a dive bar subterranean feeling of sorts.
Vinyl DJ sets command a corner of the space most nights, a small dance floor extending off of it that blends into the rest of the Lazy Diamond. The main space includes the bar that runs its full length, a line of booths along the opposite wall and a handful of short tables in between. This main space ends with a swinging pair of saloon-style doors that lead to the epically graffiti-laden bathrooms and a caged storage area that somehow also enhances the vibe. Even by dive bar standards the bathrooms are impressive, wild mixes of stickers, graffiti and posters in each of the available bathrooms.
Behind the bar, more than enough miscellaneous decoration can be found to hold a couple of drinks worth of attention, the highlight clearly the organ built into the run of beer coolers. Liquor bottles can be found in a couple of different concentrations and also strewn around this behind-the-bar space, creating a haphazard feeling made all the more visually confusing by Christmas lights hanging down amid long mirrors already reflecting the Christmas lights found elsewhere inside. And what would a dive bar setup be without a framed picture of Dolly Parton, really.
The rest of the interior is really something that has to be seen to be understood. There are PBR lamps, hidden artwork (see if you can find Andre the Giant), assorted statues, Christmas garland, did we mention all of that tinsel? Every shred of light that happens to enter the Lazy Diamond must bounce off of about 20 different surfaces before landing in your eye, creating a fairly dazzling experience best appreciated at night.
And for an Asheville city core that seems to creep ever-closer to some of these fringe areas with more and more upscale bars and restaurants funded by outside investment, the Lazy Diamond’s commitment to keep things a little weird and firmly local is welcome. If for nothing else, the pleasure of drinking a High Life from the inside of a disco ball with tinsel as its roof makes the Lazy Diamond a must-visit Asheville dive bar.