Nobody Knows Your Name at Cheers

When I went to Emerson, the campus was split between the Theater District and Back Bay. On the days when I made a mad dash from the corner of Boylston and Tremont to make it across the Common and the Public Garden in 15 minutes for a class, tourists would always stop me to ask one question.

1208266795“Can you tell me how to get to Cheers?”

I still hear the question asked in a Southern twang or a slow Midwestern cadence in my dreams, so I wasn’t surprised to see the story in today’s Globe about the continued popularity of the Bull and Finch Pub as a tourist destination. (Though I was shocked to see it was front page news.)

The Cheers bars on Beacon Street and at Quincy Market have achieved a seemingly unshakeable spot in the pantheon of historic attractions, drawing more than 750,000 visitors a year – more than the USS Constitution and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum combined.

That is so sad.

I consider it a point of personal pride that I’ve never stepped foot inside either Cheers location. None of my money is included in the mind-boggling $100 million tourists have spent on yellow Cheers t-shirts in the past 20 years. While I’ve got nothing against the excellent show, there are so many other bars in Boston where you can feel like somebody knows your name.

During my college years, we always stopped at the late great Charlie Flynn’s after class for a pint and a game of darts. When I lived in Brookline, I frequented the Washington Square Tavern so often the owner would warmly greet me by name. Until a new condo development closed it, everyone could feel welcome at the Littlest Bar.

Norm and Cliff aren’t real people. If they were, they would have found another bar to frequent once the tourists started showing up in droves. There are plenty of pubs that will give tourists the atmosphere of the show they love, and you can probably buy a t-shirt there too.

But for the love of God, if you must go, look for the building at 84 Beacon Street with the giant yellow flag that says “Cheers” on it, and leave the harried college students out of it.