When it opened in 1969 The Bull and Finch Pub was just like any other bar in the Beacon Hill area of Boston, Massachusetts. Over the years, it began to grow in popularity due primarily to its friendly staff and loyal clientele. The bar became known as a place where everybody knew your name. In 1982 Boston magazine named the bull and Finch “Boston’s best bar”. It would only grow from there.
In 1981 Producers Glen and Les Charles and James Burrows left their television series “Taxi” to create and new series for the NBC network. They wanted to do another workplace comedy as their two prior shows “Taxi” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” had a great deal of success with the same formula. They batted around several ideas for the type of workplace, including a hotel but finally decided on a bar. The first original draft was set in a bar in Barstow, California and then was changed to Kansas City, Missouri. (Kansas City is my hometown area, it would have been interesting to see how that would have turned out). They eventually chose Boston since there hadn’t been any successful comedies that had taken place there.
The working title of the comedy was ” Cheers to you”. They were scouting pubs in the Boston area, Glen Charles came across a yellow page ad for the “Bull and Finch” and he and his wife paid the bar a visit. They were so charmed by the place they decided to use the pub as the basis for their series.
The original idea was to use both the interior and exterior of the pub. Set designers photographed the interior and were planning on making a duplication. They eventually decided to only use the exterior as the Bull and Finch bar faces the door and is up against a brick wall. The producers wanted a square shape bar so the actors would have more places to move around.
The owner of the Bull and Finch sold the rights to use the pub on the show for just one dollar. (But don’t feel bad for the guy he has made millions on marketing and visitors over the years.) The Pub kept the name “Bull and Finch” for the full run of the show and was still known as such by the locals, but many tourists would contact the chamber of commerce and tourism board in Boston and ask how to get to “the cheers bar” In 2001 The Bull and Finch opened a second bar in the Quincy Market/ Faneuil Hall area of Boston. This second location featured a bar design that more resembled the set from the television show. And in 2002 The Bull and Finch officially renamed itself “Cheers Boston”
Fun Facts: Just like their earlier successes “Taxi” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, “Cheers’ was always filmed before a live studio audience. The set had bleachers that could hold about 200 people.
The set was an actual working bar. In fact, the cast and crew would often throw their wrap parties on set.
Inside the bar unseen from the audience there are strips of paper taped to the walls. These papers were the lines for Nicholas Colasanto who played “Coach” on the show. Colasanto had trouble remembering his lines and in most scenes, he is standing inside the bar so he could read off the paper. After Colasanto died, the cast didn’t have the heart to remove the slips of paper and they stayed taped to the inside of the bar the entire run of the show.
Also on the set in the back of the bar is a photo of Geronimo. The picture belonged to Colasanto and the cast kept it up as a way of honoring his memory. In the last episode, Sam Malone straightens the picture right before he exits the bar, this was improvised by Ted Danson as a way of paying homage to his fallen cast member.
The set bar has had the initials carved into it of all the cast members.
After the series ended the set was struck and placed in storage. The set was offered to the Smithsonian but they declined the offer. They said the set took up too much space. So it remained in storage for about ten years until it was rebuilt and placed in the Hollywood Museum in Los Angeles. Visitors could come and walk around the set and even order a beer from the bar. (How cool would that be?) They even would rent the set out for private parties. The museum went out of business for some reason and the set was again put in storage.
But fear not, the set was again purchased for a new museum called ‘The Museum of Television” also in Los Angeles. I checked their web site and apparently, they aren’t open yet (and I couldn’t seem to find out when exactly they will open) But I saw all the sets and props they have acquired, it will be an amazing museum if they ever actually open it.
So the fate of the real “Cheers” remains in limbo but as they say in TV land “Stay Tuned”