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A glowing review of Cutty’s Notary Public, a dive bar in Charleston, SC

That’s a pirate cat.

Jim Lohmar

Everyone has, or at least should have, their local. The place where you know everyone, you know what you like, and you can become relatively drunk in front of your peers without severe judgement. Your local dive.

No one dive bar resembles another, but they hold the same sort of molecular chemistry. Cheap booze, perhaps a pool table, one or two televisions tuned to, say, the CHILLER network, invariably showing the B-est of horror flicks.

That’s how Cutty’s Notary Public — yes, the owner is a notary — is on weekday afternoons. Eight, perhaps 10 patrons, lazily sucking down PBR and Naragansette, buying each other Fernet or Van Gogh or cheap bourbon shots, shooting pool, and smoking cigarettes outside the front door (there’s just the one). It’s now managed by Sarah, a feisty and hilarious woman, who knows everyone’s drink and that I like listening to the Replacements or Split Endz. I’VE GOT YOU, THAT’S ALL I WANT.

Cutty’s is incestuous, but in a sort of endearing way. Virtually everyone has dated everyone else, with mountains of years’ worth of history shared among us. Enmeshed within the Elliotborough district of Charleston’s upper-ish downtown peninsula, it’s walkable from virtually everywhere, and that it’s a quick jaunt around the corner from many of its regulars renders it an extension of everyone’s living room. This is just where we hang out.

Scott — my friend, my sworn enemy — runs the shop for most of the weekend and Mondays. He’s the idiot that turned us all on to Van Gogh shots — not the straight-up vodka, mind, but the espresso-infused one — sometime last year. I think so, anyway. He just proposed to his girlfriend and was terrified about doing so. He also runs a monthly comedy show, in addition to his duties as sometime bar trivia emcee. Scott’s great.

There’s a pizza joint across the street, D’Allessandro’s. Wonderful pies. And it is indeed “a pizza joint” in the classical, radical sense of the phrase. No frills, no gimmicks or cutesiness, just straight-up traditional pizza. They’ll even bring your order across the street to you if you’re nice enough and tip well. The brothers that own the shop have half ownership of the bar.

Cutty’s isn’t big by any means, but they do good business. Especially this time of year on weekends, seeing as we’re now in the height of bachelor and bachelorette party season. They can, and many have to be sure, ruin an otherwise serene night on the corner of St. Philip and Bogard, but they do good numbers for the bartenders, who, y’know, have to pay rent.

The bar occupies the bottom floor of a two-story house. There’s also the remains of a doorbell next to the entrance, marking the time when it was a members only black club. The doorbell lent added security against racial violence, since only those who passed screening at the door were permitted in the premises. Mother Emanuel AME is but a mile southeast.

I watched the Falcons unravel a 28-3 lead in Cutty’s. I was despondent after. Molly — also from Atlanta — was crying. I didn’t get blindingly drunk that night — as many a Falcons fan undoubtedly did — but I came damn close. I had to work the next day, after all.

I’ve watched most major sports events of the last four years in Cutty’s. Super Bowls, World Series, Big Dances, College Football Playoffs. Most everyone is moderately-to-highly conversant in all of these fields, a testament to the bar’s Renaissance Man personnel. They, it, the bar, are wonderful and funny and personable. May we never leave.