Whether you're visiting Charleston, South Carolina as a regular or for the first time, you'll find that Charleston is worth getting to know at night just as it is during its sunnier hours. The Holy City is one of variety, its walkable streets lined with excellent late night restaurants, beer bars, dancing, and live music suitable for every level of nightlife plans.
Most Charleston bars are centered around the Market Street and Upper King Street areas, though many fall just outside of these popular hangouts.
Combine your party plans with a few rounds of bowling at The Alley, or, take on the outdoor games on the patio at Bay Street Biergarten. Local LGBT and friends head to Pantheon on the weekends for the wildest club experience in Charleston, while those in search of a more low-key night out will turn to the craft beer havens of Closed for Business or Edmund's Oast.
Food often accompanies beverages in bars here–this is Charleston, after all. Try a late dinner at Fish before it comes alive as "Club Fish" on Saturday nights, or a meal and cheap beers at Royal American any day, any time.
Your awesome nightlife views and backdrops come in the form of rooftop bars at the Rooftop at The Vendue and Upper King's Cocktail Club. Cheers!
Why yes, you can have an all fresh caught, locally sourced, just picked meal and the latest in local Charleston brewery draft beers at the same place, at the same time. Welcome to Edmund's Oast, located just a short bike ride or drive up the peninsula to Morrison Drive, where gorgeous charcuterie and cheese plates, lowcountry farm-raised beef and poultry, and catch of the day fish are regular fixtures in a menu that changes daily with supply. The chef, kitchen staff and front of house service team take their jobs seriously, with apparent attention to detail and frequent staff trainings, all while maintaining a communal brew pub atmosphere. (843 727 1145)
The Royal American
Located on Morrison Drive just a short bike ride or drive from the heart of Charleston's entertainment and bar scene, The Royal American has had no trouble attracting a crowd following since its opening in late 2011. Boasting a popular outdoor deck and an interior space that's festive and worn in just the right places, regulars come to The Royal American for a comfortable, no-frills atmosphere, and regularly scheduled live music. Vintage-style string lights and band posters adorn the walls behind the small stage area, so anyone can catch a great view of the show from any stool or standing spot at this happy dive. Beers are cheap, and live music typically costs just $5 - $10 as a cover charge. ((843) 817-6925)
Recently rebranded, renovated, and remodeled as Charleston's Art Hotel, The Rooftop at Vendue has always been known for its expansive, unforgettable views of the Charleston Harbor and East Bay Street architecture. The Rooftop is a favorite spot for locals to bring out of town visitors, for an impressive introduction to Charleston's classic beauty, top-notch hospitality and cultivated art community. Expect a full house at the Vendue Rooftop on weekdays and some weeknights, especially if the weather is ideal for outdoor dining and drinking. Visitors to The Rooftop at Vendue come for the views, but stay for the service, specialty cocktail and craft beer menu. (843-577-7970)
Bay Street Biergarten
Bay Street Biergarten doesn't fit the mold of what you'd typically imagine a sports bar to be, and that's a good thing. Here, you'll be able to watch the big game without dealing with huge crowds or standing room only. You'll also be able to try a near-ridiculous selection of craft beers from Charleston and beyond, alongside a menu that lends itself more to a meal than something to hold you over through the game. Bay Street Biergarten menu items are more inclined to satisfy an entire afternoon or evening of sports-watching, with items like pretzels with smoked cheese sauce, bourbon-beer wings, pimento cheese sticks serving as a warm up to bigger gourmet burgers, brats and sandwiches. (843-266-2437)
This comfortable, casual brewery is a fun time day or night, and brings in an all ages (over 21) for some of Charleston's very best locally-brewed beer. Highlights from the sizeable, award-winning selection at Revelry Brewing include the Gullah Cream Ale, Funkmaster Brett & the Furious Hops, and the Oh My Darlin' Scotch Ale, among many others. Locals love the ample outdoor space at Revelry, equipped with heat lamps in winter, shady covered areas in summer, and enough bar seating and picnic tables to bring a crowd. There's food here, too, (as required by SC law), including a sweet cheese and charcuterie plate. (843-203-6194)
Closed for Business
Closed For Business is certainly one of Charleston's most popular craft beer bars, with 40+ beers on tap, and a high standard for knowledgeable bar staf. Taps--both local, regional, domestic, and imported--rotate weekly or as available. You can also order the flight of the day here, which usually incorporates a local brew or two, but don't expect to find any American big-brands here (Miller, Budweiser, etc). CFB also offers premium liquor and wine choices for those non beer drinkers you brought along for the night. A faux fireplace, wood-lined walls and community tables in the rustic lodge interior give this neighborhood bar a unique feel. There's pub grub on the menu, too. Think burgers, veggie burgers, onion rings, fried green beans, and the beloved Pork Slap. (843-853-8466)
Fish on Upper King Street offers more than meets the eye in more ways than one, with fine dining by day and nightclub-style dancing by night. It's true, Fish is primarily known as one of downtown Charleston's best seafood restaurants, but the well-dressed local young professionals crowd (without much college student presence) frequents this nightlife hotspot for what is affectionately dubbed "Club Fish," Saturday nights at Fish when the restaurant is cleared out for a DJ and more dance space. Come early if you want to skip the line: come really early (around 8pm) to grab a late dinner and a few drinks before the party gets going. (843-722-3474)
Of course, The Alley is best known as Charleston's only downtown bowling alley, and for good reason. This retro-style bowling hotspot brings in bowlers of all levels to enjoy their squeaky clean lanes, open seven days a week. The Alley has so much more to offer than just bowling, which is readily apparent with your first step inside. Come to The Alley for a much better than pub-grub menu of burgers, sandwiches and salads, alongside a changing menu of local and regional craft beers. There's also a selection of arcade games to keep you occupied while waiting for your turn at the lanes. The Alley is a sports bar in every sense of the term, which is why you'll see every major college and pro game on the TV screens. Drink and play while you watch at The Alley! (843-818-4080)
The Cocktail Club
Stepping into The Cocktail Club is akin to stepping back in time to Charleston of the prohibition era. Located just above The Macintosh at 479 King Street, The Cocktail Club prides itself on superior cocktail craftsmanship and service. This intimate, brick-walled 'hideout' also features a rooftop deck, which doubles as the source garden for cocktail garnishes.
If you're a frequent visitor or local to Charleston, consider joining as a Cocktail Club member. Memberships at the Cocktail Club include 50% off of happy hour prices (5-8pm), no line waiting, attendance of the biannual membership party, one free cocktail class per year, one private spirit tasting invitation and more. Memberships are priced at $200 per person or $350 per couple. (843-724-9411)
About Clare Sweeney
A South Carolina native and avid locavore, Clare also ventured abroad to Spain and north to Boston before returning to Charleston and her beloved Lowcountry.
Clare works and plays in downtown Charleston, spending her days enjoying the city’s perpetually sunny weather, nearby beaches and ever-growing food and craft beer scene.
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