For many, it’s the American dream to build up a business and then sell it to a bigger company for millions of dollars. But for some entrepreneurs, it’s just not worth it to turn over their pride and joy.

Perhaps the finest example of a business that refused to sell out — despite the promise of stacks of big corporate cash on the table — is tucked into the Plaza-Midwood area of Charlotte, N.C. The business in question? The Thirsty Beaver Saloon, a humble, 1,000-square-foot, one-story dive bar. And despite being dwarfed by a 323-unit apartment building surrounding it on three sides, this bar isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

A Tale of Two Brothers

The Thirsty Beaver’s story began when brothers Brian and Mark Wilson decided their neighborhood was missing a divey hangout. They leased a strip of land from property owner George Salem, who made it clear that he had no interest in actually selling the property. The Thirsty Beaver opened in 2008, and at the time, it sat on a dusty, desolate lot with no other buildings within a stone’s throw.

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True to the brothers’ intentions, the bar captured the quintessential dive aesthetic. Since day one, it’s had a free jukebox and a pool table, and most of the bar stools don’t match. The walls are lined with honky-tonk memorabilia, old-school neons, country music-themed knick-knacks, and an astounding collection of bras hung up by the entrance. All cocktails are served in plastic cups, and while there are no beers on draft, most bottles retail for$2 a pop. All things Thirsty Beaver were going well for the first few years, but then, the developers came to town.

Attack of the Corporate Bigwigs

The first move on the bar came in 2013, when the former owner of the vacant lot surrounding the bar’s property erected a chain link fence around the Thirsty Beaver to keep it sectioned off. Business carried on as usual, and bar regulars even adorned the fence with more bras. But in 2015, construction company CW Development bought up the land around the bar for $8.5 million. The company tried to buy the lot that houses the Thirsty Beaver several times, but Salem never gave in. And as Mark told the Charlotte Observer in 2019, “We told him if he held onto it, we’d be there with him.”

Construction of a behemoth, high-rise apartment complex with hundreds of units began shortly after that. But the Thirsty Beaver stayed put, so the apartments were built around the bar in a horseshoe shape. At first glance, the dive almost looks like a mirage amid the modern landscape. But for locals and loyal regulars, they couldn’t be happier that their sanctuary has stayed standing.

“It has always been one of those places where you come in and leave your pretensions at the door,” local patron Bob Campbell told the Charlotte Observer in 2019. “There’s not too many places like that in town now.”

The Saloon Lives On

Given the Thirsty Beaver’s wild backstory and enduring no B.S. vibe, it’s acquired a somewhat legendary reputation. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kacey Musgraves, and even Mick Jagger have stopped by for a cheap beer in recent years. As a true testament to its anti-clout-chasing aura, apparently nobody at the bar — including the owners themselves — recognized Jagger when he came in.

To this day, the Thirsty Beaver Saloon remains alive and well. There’s live music on Sundays, the beers are still cheap, and, of course, the bra collection still hangs above the entrance. In a world where true dive bars can be hard to find, we raise a plastic cup to the Thirsty Beaver — the bar that refused to sell out.

*Image retrieved from John F. Roberts via