‘Cheers’: Why the Iconic Bar Wouldn’t Have Passed Inspection

by Joe Rutland

Bars have to pass inspection in order to stay open, and our favorite classic TV bar, Cheers, was definitely no exception. Yet it would not have passed inspection in Boston. Say what? Yep, there was something very interesting about the bar that you might not think about. In Boston, though, there was a reason for the door to be a certain way.

OK, so the story goes that Cocoanut Grove was a happening place to be seen. It was built in the days of the Roaring ’20s with some illegal drinking going down. That all changed when Prohibition would allow for the booze to flow freely. Tragedy, though, would hit the nightclub. A busboy, according to MeTV, lit a match to help him see. He was changing a lightbulb at the hip place reportedly on Thanksgiving weekend in 1942. Soon, though, palm fronds in the bar caught fire, and that would go to the ceiling. It was a tragic loss of 492 lives, becoming the second-deadliest single-building fire in the history of America.

That Door Always Used By Norm Peterson on ‘Cheers’ Had Troubles

What would have saved a lot of those lives? A door that swings outward. The door at Cocoanut Grove was a revolving door. People could not hurriedly get out of there. They were trapped. Also of note is that the revolving door is the only entrance for people who wanted to get inside. Law in Boston would change, requiring all venues to have outward-swinging doors.

As you watch Cheers, you have seen that door open up many, many times. Most notably is when Norm Peterson, played by George Wendt, comes in week after week. Which way does that door open, classic TV fans? Yep, it opens inward. The door would not pass inspection. Therefore, the Cheers bar would be written up, given citations, and shut down. Imagine Sam Malone, played by Ted Danson, having to deal with this on the show. It did not happen, of course, and Cheers had a nice run on NBC. It also has arrived in the land of reruns and can be seen all the time.

Meanwhile, when we talk to you about spinoffs from Cheers, the first one that might come to mind is Frasier. We understand as I get a kick out of seeing Dr. Frasier Crane, played by Kelsey Grammer, have issues at home and on the radio. But would you believe that it was not the first one? That would be The Tortellis, featuring Dan Hedaya and Rhea Perlman. Of course, Rhea played Carla Tortelli on Cheers and Hedaya played Nick. It got a boost from being part of the Cheers world yet didn’t last too long.