Big John's Tavern

The Best Dive Since '55



Remember it? Of course you do. Though the memories may be a bit fuzzy.



While I had moved on from February’s fire and my hazy memories of Big John’s Tavern months ago, today’s article on Eater, “Construction at Big John’s Tavern Hints at a New Bar on the Way,” had me reminiscing about my times in the dark dive—one of the Holy City’s oldest and most iconic bars.



There’s something about sitting on the back of a booth, feet where your ass is supposed to be, bras (and the occasional thong) dangling overheard, a sparkly one catching your eye as you tilt your head back to take a shot of Fireball that a Citadel knob probably bought you.





I’m also pretty sure Big John’s is the first place I ever had Grand Ma—the official unofficial shot of Charleston. And definitely the first place I drunkenly sang Liz Phair’s “I Am Extraordinary” on karaoke night the weekend after a rough break-up.


I was feeling bold. Must have been the Grand Ma.


You could always count on a weird mix of a crowd to be there—mostly locals, the occasional tourists wandering over from East Bay—but never the obnoxious underage scene often so prevalent on King Street. Big John’s was a place you could count on to be low-key (except for maybe on karaoke night…). And I don’t mean low-key like it never got wild—I mean the ceiling was covered in bras—but no one was there to try too hard. No stilettos, no short skirts, just people having a few drinks and a good time. The women’s room didn’t even have a mirror, so clearly Big John’s wasn’t a place concerned with appearances.



note the ceiling fan decorations


From Free Show Fridays with live music, ice cold PBRs, pool, arcade games, neon beer signs covering the walls, shots of Jameson, and a whole lotta bra-less women—what more could you want?


I can only hope whatever bar or restaurant takes its place at 251 East Bay lives up the reputation Big John’s left when it went down in a blaze of glory earlier this year. If only I could go back in time—I'd make sure to leave a little something of myself hanging.  




RIP Big John's