Cheer Up Charlie’s moves location, “rock ‘n’ roll” bar to come


The Eastside bar community said farewell to one of its most essential drinking spots, Cheer Up Charlie’s, on Jan. 12. The bar, known for its dedicated LGBTQ community, is projected to reopen in the former home of Club DeVille at 900 Red River on Feb. 20.

La Corsha Hospitality Group, the hotel and restaurant management and consulting company responsible for Bar Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen, plans to replace Cheer Up Charlie’s with a “neighborhood bar” called Wonderland, to open before SXSW 2014.

“I feel like they’re just kind of trying to do what we did,” co-owner Maggie Lea said.

Wonderland owner Scott Walker disagreed and said that his bar is not the same as Cheer Up Charlie’s.

“Cheer Up Charlie’s has their clientele and I totally support that and that’s a community that I’m actually pretty close to,” he said. “[Wonderland] is probably more of a rock ‘n’ roll kind of vibe.”

Wonderland will continue to focus on live music but designate it to the outside patio which they plan to expand, as opposed to inside the bar like the former owners.

Lea and Cheer Up Charlie’s other co-owner, Tamara Hoover, were given 30 days notice to move out of the bar and find a new location. They had always been under a month-to-month lease but were told they would have six months notice if somebody else bought the space, Lea said.

“It’s not like we weren’t paying rent or anything, it’s not a lot of time to give somebody.”

Walker is aware that some Cheer Up Charlie’s fans feel negatively about the move and his plans to “just do something fun.”

“People seem to want to run the negative angle,” he said. “We’re not…some big corporation, we’re just a bunch of local dudes. I live about a half mile down the street.”

Lea considers themselves lucky to receive the space on Red River; they were one of 15 applicants for the spot.

“If we didn’t find the old Club DeVille spot, we probably wouldn’t have reopened,” she said.

Lea intends for the new location to mostly stay the same as the one that many Austinites have grown to love. The building will be generally the same and they are being sure to leave room for live music—a Cheer Up Charlie’s staple that will be even more vibrant in the new location because of a more lenient noise ordinance in the Red River district.

Cheer Up Charlie’s will still be a “safe space” for the Austin LGBTQ community. Despite this fact, some regulars are unhappy about the move.

St. Edward’s University junior Read Penn frequented Cheer Up Charlie’s every weekend before their hiatus, she said.

“Putting Cheer Up’s by Sixth Street is probably the worst idea ever,” Penn said. “I don’t want it to turn into one of the glittery gay bars.”

For Penn, Cheer Up Charlie’s location on the Eastside was “like a family.”

“I’m gay and when I first came out, I wanted to go to a non-glittery gay bar, I’m not about that,” she said. “I think people go to the Eastside to get a different feel.”

Penn is still undecided on whether she will visit the new location when it opens but believes that many people will continue to support the bar and maintain its LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere.

Hillary-Anne Crosby, Editor-in-Chief of Vagina :: The Zine, entered into a business partnership with Cheer Up Charlie’s almost three years ago when the venue began hosting release parties and fundraisers for her zine. Since then, her relationship with the staff has grown to a friendship and she is “excited” about their move.

“I think the clientele is going to get more diverse because I think the Red River crowd already is,” Crosby said. “I’ve heard just one or two complaints about that from friends who worry about the ‘bro’ population seeping in.”

But Crosby is not too worried about a potential change in atmosphere because Cheer Up Charlie’s “seems to be all about fostering diversity and welcoming you whoever you are.”

“I feel like Tamara and I are really grateful for having been on the Eastside,” Lea said. “We’re just really grateful for that first chapter and hope that people that we love will come here (to the new location).”