Photo by Ashley Rose Stanol

Charleston dive bar owner Chris DiMattia is reminded of his hometown area every day thanks to the single phone land line in a house he rented as a student at the College of Charleston.

This was before cell phones became ubiquitous. The shared downtown home in the late 1990s had three occupants named Chris. DiMattia was the one from the Boston area. So when people phoned, they’d ask for “the one from Boston.” Soon, “Boston” became his nickname. These days, some people probably don’t realize his given name is Chris.

But they know what he sells — and lots of it — Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. DiMattia’s Recovery Room Tavern on King Street sells more cans of PBR than any other bar in the country. At one point, it sold more PBR overall than anywhere else in the world, but that was changed by the pandemic and tourists who have gentrified the drink selections at the bar. People used to order PBR and a shot of bourbon, he said. Now they may order a Jager Bomb (a shot of Jagermeister and Red Bull), a vodka and Red Bull or some other drink of the moment favored by AirBnB visitors. 

The Recovery Room continues to be filled with lots of regulars, DiMattia explained but that’s slowly changing, like everything else.

“The working-class crowd that was our bread and butter for so long can no longer afford to live downtown,” he said.

A home with an amazing view

Chris “Boston” DiMattia admits he can be a little obsessive about some of his non-work pursuits. | Photo by Andy Brack

Just as the pandemic hit, DiMattia and his wife, Kelli, and their two children moved into an older 3,200-square-foot Mount Pleasant home with a view to die for. Nestled in the quiet Bayview Shores neighborhood, it overlooks Shem Creek and the Charleston harbor. It’s relaxing to sit on indoor-outdoor sofas on a covered back deck and watch the maritime traffic — sailboats, motorboats and huge container cargo ships that steam to and from the Port of Charleston. A sea breeze gently pushes mosquitoes away.

The home’s first floor has a separate mother-in-law suite set apart from a comfortable sitting room, dining room and spacious kitchen, replete with a beer refrigerator. Inside it is always-present PBR as well as an array of other beers that distributors want the businessman to sample, hoping he’ll carry them in his bar. The home’s regular refrigerator includes food mostly for his children. DiMattia insists that he can’t — or doesn’t — cook and generally goes out for food, unless he munches on cereal in the mornings.

You can peek between the front and back of the house through cool, open wooden stairs. Upstairs are bedrooms for his 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, as well as a remodeled master bedroom where he and his wife have a million-dollar view of the harbor. In a large basement is a storage area, entertainment room, a place for video games and a small bedroom. On the day we visited, a workman was making outside improvements.

Through the years, DiMattia has had lots of construction crews around. He has invested in homes on an ongoing basis in transitioning neighborhoods. His crews upfitted them and then flipped them or rented them. 

“I’ve bought and sold about 40 homes now,” he said, adding they’ve been in James Island, Charleston, North Charleston, Hanahan and Ladson. 

Lots of hard work

After graduating from the College of Charleston in 2002, DiMattia returned to the Boston area for a year to work. During the daytime, he worked at a marina. In the evenings, he worked as a bar-back at a strip club. All the while, he socked away money.

Guess what beer enjoys the lead position in the home of the nation’s top seller of PBR cans?

It wasn’t too long before he realized he wanted to be back in Charleston. He returned a year after graduating and spent four years doing more hard work — at Moe’s Crosstown as a bartender plus valet parking cars at other times. DiMattia freely admits he is obsessive-compulsive, “a bull that keeps plugging away.” At that point in his life, he worked almost every day. He was making really good money.

By 2007, DiMattia left Charleston to spend six months traveling the world, from Bangkok to Barcelona. He wasn’t sure what the future held.

But as fate had it, DiMattia had become friends with the owner of an unoccupied former club on King Street. She gave him the keys. In 2008, the building became the Recovery Room at a time when the city of Charleston “was desperate in that area” for economic rebirth. 

DiMattia said opening a bar felt comfortable because of his experience and the fact that his parents often took the kids to Massachusetts bars and clubs as they socialized with neighbors. 

“There’s just something about the energy at a bar that I’ve wanted to be part of,” he said.

The Recovery Room was profitable, DiMattia said, from its first day. It didn’t hurt that he did what he’d always done — work, work and work. 

“Back then, I bartended six nights a week,” he remembered. He also washed dishes, swept floors, hosted trivia and more.

“I never opened the Recovery Room for the money,” the business owner said. “I opened it for the reliable income stream to buy the real estate.”

Next? He’s slowed down now on some of the house-flipping and now is developing a new bar concept.

Surely, it will be a place where people will be able to (wait for it) recover in a new way.


THE LOWDOWN ON Chris DiMattia

Age: 43.

Birthplace: Quincy, Massachusetts.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration, College of Charleston, 2002.

Current profession: Entrepreneur and owner, Recovery Room Tavern, 685 King St., Charleston.

Family: Wife, Kelli, and two children.

Number of concrete gorillas guarding his home: One, “Sasquatch.”

Something people would be surprised to learn about you: “I can’t swim. I sink. I’m just not very good. Now, I can tread water. I’ve had two in-ground pools, but made sure the deep end was just 5 feet.”

Favorite thing to do outside of work: “I really get into things.” Past passions: Beard-growing, video games, pinball, curling,
ice hockey and weightlifting.

Favorite cocktail or beverage: Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Five drinks always in the house: “Water, milk, PBR, white wine and random beer people want me to try.”

Favorite foods to eat: Meatloaf with gravy; chocolate chip
ice cream.

Five foods always in the refrigerator: Eggs, yogurt pops, cheese sticks, berries, grapes — all stuff for kids.

Favorite food to cook: “My favorite food to cook is going out
to eat.”

Five favorite local restaurants: Cru Cafe, Bistronomy by Nico, Muse, Red’s Ice House, D’Allesandro’s Pizza.

Three people (alive or dead) you’d like to dine with:
New England Patriots General Manager Bill Belichick,
Clint Eastwood and Ben Franklin.

What meal would you want served to you for your last supper: Prime rib from TBonz, PBR and the brownie sundae from Kaminsky’s.

Tattoos: 4.

Secret vice: Chocolate chip cookies from Harris Teeter.

Guilty pleasure: Collecting Nintendo 64 video game cartridges.

Favorite musicians: Al Green, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder. 

Childhood hero: Bobby Orr.

Pet peeve: “People who aren’t polite.”

Philosophy: “Follow the Golden Rule — treat people the way you want to be treated.”

Your advice for someone new to Charleston: “Try to live downtown and try to get to know some of your older neighbors. They might get you to realize what a great place this is.”


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