A Toast, to Cheers!

It's a rarity for a bar to stay open for more than a year in South Florida, an area that routinely tears down the old and erects the new as quickly as songs change on the radio. Add to that cycle an economic climate stiffer than an August day in the everglades, and the already masochistic task of keeping a successful pub alive starts to look downright impossible. Yet the cozy, dark little dive bar Cheers Food & Spirits has been bringing live music and free-flowing booze to the north end of Fort Lauderdale for over two decades now. And it's showing no signs of stopping. On Sunday, the Lauderdale institution will celebrate its 24th Anniversary Party, a rollicking night featuring live rock, no cover, and a free buffet. Take that, recession.

So what's the key to Cheers' success? You might credit a certain degree of luck - a convergence of good fortune, timing, location, and charm. But owner Shawn Chase says the formula is much simpler than that. "It's consistency," he explains without a hint of braggadocio. "The key to any place is staff is your first priority. Then quality food and quality entertainment. That's why [Cheers] is a landmark." It also doesn't hurt that Chase — a Maine native — acquired the bar three years ago from local nightlife icon Paul Lorenzo, who ran successful bars like The Candy Store and The Flying Machine in Fort Lauderdale for years. "He's definitely my mentor," says Chase of Lorenzo. "We still talk at least once a month." Chase started at Cheers seven years ago as a bartender, and eventually worked his way up to manager. Now, he owns one of the longest standing institutions in Fort Lauderdale. Not a bad run.

First October, Nobody's Fault, Riverdown, Phat Munky, Wrecktifier, and more will help Chase and company celebrate the occasion with a bevy of classic rock hits and original tunes. The party starts at 5 p.m., and in typical Cheers fashion, keeps going until 4 in the morning. Cheers is at 941 E. Cypress Rd., as if you didn't already know. Visit cheersfoodandspirits.com, or call 954-771-6337.
Sun., March 15, 5:30 p.m., 2009

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John Linn