Charleston Bars We Wish Would Return from the Dead
In honor of the reopening of Big John’s Tavern – a beloved old Charleston dive bar that’s been recently reincarnated in its old location but with a shiny new concept – we’ve made a list of some of our favorite Charleston bars that have shuffled off this mortal coil… but that’d we’d LOVE to see returned to life one day! Longtime locals might remember some of these golden oldies. Charleston newbies – take note, these spots will be immediately popular if they ever do rise from the grave!
Upper Deck – We know, we know. Bangkok Lounge is a great bar and a fine update to this misfit-friendly hidden dive on Upper King Street. But there’s just something we miss about the gritty, slightly-smelly original Upper Deck. It might be the camaraderie of the many folks that called Deck a home-away-from-home through the years, or the special vibe of a spot generally insulated from tourists despite a King Street address by it’s intimidating “down a scary alley” entrance. Upper Deck just had something special, and while you’ll definitely catch us at Bangkok Lounge from time to time, we’ll be forever nostalgic for the original.
Pantheon – Real ones know. This LGTBQ+ friendly club existed as Dudley’s dressed up and ready-to-party big sister for years, providing a place where folks could catch epic drag competitions and dance the night away with a way more fun crowd than you’d find at any other Charleston club, then and now. If you were lucky enough to be on the scene while Pantheon was open, you probably have more than one night that ended with getting sweaty on its dance floor with like-minded party people while throwing back Red Bull vodkas for sustenance. We hope to see another club follow in Pantheon’s fabulous footsteps one day, but the original will live in our hearts forever.
Bar Normandy – While the various talented brains behind Bar Normandy have all moved on to other wonderful projects (like Bar George in James Island), there was something truly special about this cozy little spot on Broad Street, and being able to pop in and grab a bar stool for oysters, excellent wine, and whatever the lads were cooking up that day. The intimate, fun-loving vibes and mind-blowing eats created a perfect casual-yet-classy atmosphere that we still reminisce about, even though the bar itself was relatively short-lived. Until a reanimation comes to pass, catch us at Bar George, downing oysters and thinking of the good ol’ days.
Closed For Business – Now part of the Monza expansion, this Upper King Street spot was an early pioneer in Charleston’s craft beer bar scene. With a tap list that was genuinely impressive – even by today’s standards – and a great variety of pour sizes available (rickshaw kids were fond of the giant boot), CFB immediately attracted local brew enthusiasts and offered great food and a warm, quirky atmosphere for those that were more craft-beer-curious rather than seasoned experts. Monza’s well and good, but we were sad when CFB finally lived up to its name… and we’re still thinking about their buffalo oysters all these years later.
Octobachi – This is a deep cut, y’all. Octobachi was small and short-lived, but for those of us that got to spend some time tossing back sake, beer (anyone remember their October pumpkin beer specials?), and sushi in their Spring Street shop, it was a fun time that burned brightly before it burned out. With eclectic decor and an inventive menu that included never-before-seen-in-Charleston items like sushi nachos, it was a rare spot where local sake enthusiasts could drink their fill. The Octobachi awning can still be seen on Spring Street, and whenever it catches our eye it makes us wish someone will come along and bring this creature back to life.
Interested in hearing even more of Charleston’s long and storied bar history? Sign up for our fantastic Pubs, Taverns, and Taprooms tour to hear stories of local watering holes past and present, while enjoying delicious local brews with a licensed Charleston tour guide & bar enthusiast!