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Once you live in Austin a couple of years it becomes a point of pride to rub it into newcomers faces that you remember when this used to be that. Successful businesses in Austin tend to be bought up, renamed, and relocated. For Cheer Up Charlies they may have moved, but at least they did so with the same owners and mentality. Relocated from it’s East 6th location across 35 to what used to be Club Deville on Red River, at times I pine for the old location. They are one of the few businesses that managed, despite the new address, to keep their flavor and history while displaying an obvious upgrade. The only negative thing I have to say about them, and I will get this out of the way now, is that some nights being nestled at the bottom of Mohawk makes it a tough sell for sound quality. Due to its placing, it is a cacophonous din when walking down the street. However once you are nestled in the bosom of the set being played, Cheer Up Charlies drowns out all other competition.

A gay bar that made their identity as people friendly, they are open to all walks of life. Unlike bars that market themselves within a specific genre they come across more open in their clientele. Cheer Up Charlies does not discriminate between gays, trans, breeders, animal lovers, music aficionados, and hardcore vegans. It is easy to judge those around the bar, but everyone is at Cheer Up for a reason. So keep the anti-hipster, never-a-hippy, homophobic, fat shaming, and other elitist comments to yourself. The place is always packed, someone will hear, and be judging just as harshly for whatever sentiment was uttered. Cheer Up Charlies is all inclusive making them a successful and striving gay bar. With events and shows for bicyclists, drag queens (I have seen Christeene there), and cover bands. They are equally proud of their vegan options. Want a mix drink but have dietary qualms about what is in it? Not an issue at Cheer Up Charlies.

They are vibrant without trying to make a statement other than, they are fun. Everything is dipped in purples and blues, greens and pinks, with cartoony drawings and funky furniture. The outdoor seating consists of dark wood and faux grass and jammed pack with life. I do not like the giant dream catcher, as a matter of personal taste, but some will. The gates leading up the bar is just as fun as the inside with everything in between displaying distinctness. This place was made to be a photo op no matter where you decide to selfie. There are even convenient food trucks (Arlo and East Side King) parked outside it gates for those looking to absorb the alcohol building up in their blood stream.

What of their name? It certainly rings a bell. Cheer Up Charlies wants you to turn that frown upside down. As evidenced by the toothy smile slathered everywhere from the website to the walls. Every time I am there a sad refrain plays in my head, and though you would think that I would be remorse, I smile at the memory. The pleading song sang by Charlie’s mother in Willy Wonka is meant to appeal to its patrons in this way. The work week may have been long, you may feel alone, you might have been kicked out because you have not paid rent for the last two months…but try to let those troubles blow away and allow the bar and its many strangers turn it around for you. Even if it is just for a little while.

A.J. Whitaker

A.J. Whitaker is from San Antonio who decided to make it big in Austin. Every day she curses the traffic and all the other people who had the same idea to move. When she is not passing judgment on businesses she is submitting fiction to literary journals. Follow her success and lack of it, on her personal blog www.smashlin.com.