For 16 years, Upper Deck Tavern has been home to cheap beers, camaraderie, Sunday night karaoke, the shot du jour (pick your poison: Gran Ma, Firefly, Fireball, Jamison, Fernet), and bartenders willing to lend an ear. But, as the Charleston City Paper reported yesterday, that will all end at the end of February as owner Ken Newman lost the lease on the space. As mom and pop shops on King Street are gobbled up by chains and hoteliers, it was only a matter of time that the beloved dive bar would fall victim to the rising tide of astronomical property values.
Everyone who has been to Upper Deck remembers their first time there — or at least vague patches of memory mixed with regret for that last shot. A friend, perhaps older, perhaps a Charleston native, led you through the dark alley at 353 King St. and coxed you up the stairs to the sometimes rowdy, but always welcoming dive bar. With the news of the closing, many took to social media and email to mourn the loss of their favorite bar.
Upon hearing the news, writer Brian Wilder wrote to Eater: “For a few fleeting hours [at Upper Deck], you weren’t black, white, gay, straight, sad, pissed off or even discontent. For that few fleeting hours, under the warm glow of neon promotional lights, you were simply hanging out. Together.”
Here are a few other reactions:
It breaks my heart to hear that Upper Deck Tavern is closing. I've had the wildest times at that bar from celebrating my 21st birthday, karaoke, going to pbr proms, Christmas parties or when sweet Tom supplied tissues while @avaflavvvv @weeeeehiney and I sobbed over the loss of a friend. So many memories. I will miss this place so much.
I always said if UDT closed, I would start a GoFundMe to buy it, but I’m pretty sure that property value would go beyond what the internet can afford. I think I need a day off work to mourn.— Erin Perkins (@erperkin) February 15, 2018
Ah shit I think I still had a tab open at UDT. Sorry guys— Samuel Graebner (@SamuelGraebner) February 15, 2018
"saaaaaaaddle"— BJW (@GQBound) February 15, 2018
There’s even a final party planned by Upper Deck admirer Seaton Brown on February 28. He writes on Facebook:
Upper Deck was the last small refuge that we had left. A place that welcomed everyone, all diversities, all ages (over 21). There was no stereotype because it was a bar for all humans. Judgment was checked at the door with your ID and excitement grew as you walked down the alley, up the stairs, and entered the sweat and heat of friends and strangers, PBR in hand, singing at the top of their lungs to the karaoke master’s musings. Hell, it may not have even been karaoke when patrons would burst into song and have the whole bar, arm in arm, linked in fraternal appreciation for the family Upper Deck Tavern created. All of this made possible by the staff who opened the doors each day and cared for each and every one of us, and each of us who cared dearly for them.
Be sure to go have a final PBR, and a don’t forget a Sharpie to leave your mark in the stalls, if you haven’t already.