CHEE CHEE CLUB REVIEW (Downtown San Diego)
The Chee Chee Club is located near San Diego’s famous downtown red lamp district. A few blocks from the cities courthouse and a few steps from a major trolley station. Giving this historic area a high volume of traffic and just the right amount of seedy elements to keep the yuppies at bay. A friend of mine says “It takes character to do some daytime drinkin on a school day.” (Nick Bone) And this place dispenses a cast of characters that would put a John Waters movie to shame. One can poke their head in at any time during their regular business hours and leave with an amusing anecdote about a crazy overheard story/conversation, or be witness to a moment you wont soon forget. Not to say that this place is dangerous. As a keen sociological observer, you can feel safe taking in the wildlife here.
I started visiting The Cheech a little over a year ago. Initially going in to unwind after a days work, but staying alert of my surroundings and keeping an eye out for pickpockets. From my first few visits to this traditionally dimly lit place I noticed that there is a surprising amount of people that choose to wear sunglasses indoors and at night here. Im not sure if thats for aesthetic purposes or some sort of subcultural signal unbeknownst to me. A sense of adventure that is all but lost in todays modern man, needs to be rekindled and the thick midst of the concrete jungle is a perfect place to start.
A kind greeting is usually the first thing you hear as you enter, either from the barkeep or a random patron attempting to string a sentence together. You pull up a barstool and check out the libations. Im assuming its for safety purposes that the bottom shelf liquor is in plastic bottles. The cheapest beer IS NOT Pabst Blue Ribbon but Natural Light, which Im sure is done to make this place feel more like home for a lot of folks. The bartenders are good at what they do and have way more than adequate conversational skills on both a common and intellectual level. Freddy and Michelle make you feel like they’re amusing hosts at a dodgy dinner party. As you relax and look around, you’ll see at times a very eclectic mix of individuals, who on an average day can range from, older chicken hawk style men “cruising” for boys to conquer/ flamboyant femboys dancing to Cher/ Rock N Roll degenerates that work nearby/ young hipster kids “slumming it”/ Pool sharks/ your average drunk/ men in nice suits trying to sneak in a drink where they think no one will see them and from time to time…..a regular crowd of peeps.
The Urban legend that goes along with this place was told to me by my close friend and North Park Urban Historian, Chris “Silent” Henry. The Cheech has been around since the Fourtys and with its current since the sixties. San Diego’s Red Lamp district in Downtown became the hotbed for all of the Sailors that passed through town. All the worldly vices a young man could desire. Knowing the militaries stance on homosexuality (I can only imagine in those days it was worse) Sailors looking for a good time with other men had to go a little further away from the crowds and venture into the east village of Downtown SD. The Chee Chee Club provided the safe haven for those brave sailors. So its tradition remained for years ahead.
An anecdote that sticks out in my mind happened a few months ago. Some friends and I were unwinding and taking in the scenery there, when we noticed two guys sitting separate from each other on a booth in the corner. As our drinks became shallow they grew closer and closer, until we noticed they were gone. They hadn’t left through the front door or else we would’ve noticed. Where had they disappeared to???? The bathroom! we thought. I pulled out my phone and started filming, handed it over to my buddies Wayne and Hymie and the video above is what they caught.
They titled it as “Fag Bursting” not because any of us are homophobes, Id like to point out. But because its just plain funny.
A good social media presence is a necessity nowadays and The Cheechs Facebook posts are in my opinion top notch. Sarcastic yet friendly and perfectly worded. Please do take a minute to “Like” their page and see what Im talking about.
The price list has also got to be the best in the area. Cocktails, wells, beers (domestic, premium and import) range from three to five dollars! The jukebox has a surprising amount of good punk rock and pop. The Cheech also offers itself as a venue for artists. Come for the drinks, come for the conversations and wildlife and I promise if you stick around long enough. Reality TV, Maury Povich and Jerry Springers writers all combined couldn’t make this up.