Cheers Food and Spirits Is Fort Lauderdale's Best-Kept Secret

The 1980s sitcom Cheers launched a tag line that, two decades after the show went off the air, is still easily recognizable in the lexicon of pop culture; a place “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” is a comforting idea for anyone who's frequented a bar or a pub with any regularity.

Here in South Florida, we have a pair of bars bearing the old show's namesake, and though you won't find Sam and Diane comically squabbling while trying not to sleep with each other, they do offer plenty of other entertainment.

Cheers, located on 941 E. Cypress Creek Road in east Fort Lauderdale, and its sister location, Cheers Restaurant and Bar at 8931 W. Oakland Park Blvd. in Sunrise, have set out to be fun and boozy spots where locals can feel at home.

The original Cheers was opened by Paul Lorenzo in 1985; however, the current incarnation is owned by Shawn Chase, a man who paid his dues before becoming the big boss. His brother, Conrad, owns the newer Sunrise location, which started rocking in August 2013.

After speaking to Shawn, it's clear that the two have dedicated themselves to supporting local bands and music at all costs and providing a place like Cheers, where the adage “Home is where the heart is” rings true.

New Times: To what do you owe the longevity of Cheers when so many other bars, restaurants, and live music venues have shut down in a much shorter time?
Shawn Chase: The previous owner was Paul Lorenzo, who was a very intelligent, very smart businessman who had a great business model set around rock 'n' roll good times. He used to call it "music and mayhem until 4 a.m." He just used to cater to the local people.

We cater a lot to the "in the biz" crowd, the local bars and restaurants. The people who are out there grinding all day, making their tips, need a place to go after work. That's who we are and what we take pride in being. We are proud to call ourselves a local dive bar.

We do some kind of entertainment seven nights a week, whether it be a DJ, karaoke, live music five nights a week. We have a great staff, and I believe that is a key to any business these days... We don't do out-of-town musicians. We don't go after the old one-hit wonders or people who are traveling; we do all local musicians.

With the addition of the second Cheers, are you offering anything radically different, or were you simply trying to expand the business?
We have virtually the same blueprint. They have the same idea; the bars are very similar inside. We didn't even intend it that way. It just happened to work out. Both places have pool tables, both have dartboards, both places have two bars, a stage. We followed the same idea, trying to provide some kind of entertainment seven nights a week, whether it's a jam night, an open-mic night, a karaoke night. We do a hip-hop/R&B night here [Cheers Fort Lauderdale] that they don't do out there — something different because of the demographics.

We have branched into the sports side of things. We've added about 20 TVs to this location, and now we hold all your NFL games, your hockey games, your Major League Baseball games. At the same time, we still try to keep it in the key of music.

... We don't book any bands that we haven't seen live or haven't been referred to by a reputable source. It's a great reason for me to get out of my bar. I love to jump on my Harley Davidson, take a cruise to one of the other local bars.

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Why don't you do any touring or national acts?
We found that the local bands have the following. They're the ones with the heart of the area. The South Florida music scene is a very, very tight group. It's been an amazing scene since the ’70s and ’80s... Actually, Mark Poiesz is a drummer for Tyler Farr, a famous country singer. He played here for years in a band called Ghost of Gloria.

Derek Trucks [of Tedeschi Trucks Band], he started playing here before his teens, actually. Iron Butterfly played here. Previous owner Paul Lorenzo was friends with Big Mama Blu, who was a legend in the music scene down here... In order to host a national touring act, you'd have to come up with a ten- or 20-dollar cover charge in order to pay for those bands. We're only 200 capacity. We couldn't sustain that. And we want our friends to come out and be able to afford to drink and have a good time.

How do you decide on which bands to book?
To be honest with you, a lot of it is decided by going out and just seeing the band and how they perform at other venues and other clubs — to see how good the band is together, to see how the band interacts with the crowd. I have an agency that works with me called Main Event Talent Agency. Judy Blem is the owner and operator of that, and she will do some scouting, but we don't book any bands that we haven't seen live or haven't been referred to by a reputable source. It's a great reason for me to get out of my bar. I love to jump on my Harley-Davidson, take a cruise to one of the other local bars.

We have friends — O'Malleys, Chit-Chat's, Flossie's — places where we're friends with the other owners. I support their business; they'll support ours. We'll call each other and let them know that we've seen a good band. We try not to compete. There's quite a few of us bars that work together, try to hold events, support each other, especially in the music scene. We recently had an event where we donated gift certificates for a gentleman who was diagnosed with cancer. The event was held at another bar, but we all joined together to support it. It's a nice little community we've got here.

Cheers, located at 941 E. Cypress Creek Road, Fort Lauderdale, and at 8931 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Sunrise. Call 954-771-6337 (Fort Lauderdale), 954-749-1337 (Sunrise), or visit
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Angel Melendez is an unabashed geek and a massive music nerd who happens to write words (and occasionally take photos) for Miami New Times. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University and an accomplished failure at two other universities, Angel is a lush and an insufferable know-it-all, and has way better taste in music than you. His wealth of useless knowledge concerning bands, film, and Batman is matched only by his embarrassingly large collection of Hawaiian shirts and onesies.
Contact: Angel Melendez