Visited Big John’s recently. This is a dive bar in downtown Chucktown. There are no dives in downtown Charleston, so Big John’s is somewhat of a curiosity.
To me, and I’m sure many others, this is not just a dive bar. Back in the day, I accidently integrated the place with a friend (I remember him observing, “A lotta brothers here tonight” and realizing that there were only white folks in the bar). My friend was a Submarine Officer and Big John, in a progressive state of mind and very supportive of the military, welcomed us.
I am told that Big John was a linebacker for the Chicago Bears in the fifties. He certainly had the stature. When he ran the bar, he stationed himself towards the front of the bar, where he could scope everyone and figure out who needed to leave.
He was there when I and a bunch of Submariners, College of Knowledge Women and Citadel Cadets hung out about a quarter of a century ago. I only saw Big John get off of his bar stool once. That was to break up an issue. He could barely walk, but I noticed that a pearl-handled revolver was tucked in his belt in the (relatively) small of his back.
This bar is like a roach, you can’t kill it – but why would you want to? If you like bars with stuff on the walls that is both old (i.e., nobody wants to steal) and new (the new layer of graffiti), then you need to stop in for a Palmetto Amber, a game of dart and some pool. We stopped in and played darts with the one dart on the board and then enjoyed shots with a party that was celebrating at the back pool table. I also scored a nice BJs T-shirt. During our visit, there was a sign posted on the front wall that stated, “To Whoever Is Writing: FOIE GRAS Everywhere!!! Please write on the walls and only WALLS!!!!”
There are two pool tables, a pinball machine, a couple of video games, a dart board (please bring your own darts) and bras hanging from the ceiling. The Big has Indoor plumbing and locals.
I would recommend making a pre or post-dinner stop at Big John’s to enjoy the atmosphere, libations, pool, pinball, and darts. If you are in town when the Citadel is in session, you will likely see Cadets and College of Charleston women hanging out.
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