Thanks to Eater reporting, the Holy City can all breathe a sigh of relief that the “Hutson Street project” is not housing a Google barge. The name “Vincent Chicco’s” sounds appropriate enough for what may become a “steakhouse and Italian spot,” but as is often the case in Charleston, there’s a history lesson behind the whole thing.
Vincent Chicco is one of the heroes, if not the hero, of the early beer scene in our town. The man that would become a beloved proprietor and alderman arrived here shortly after the Civil War on a ship from Italy, a mere fifteen years of age and one of only two survivors of his voyage. Police work led to entrepreneurship, as he once ran a grocery store, hotel and café located from 83 to 85 East Bay Street. It wasn’t until the Dispensary system threw control of liquor sales to the state government that Chicco made his mark on history.
It was reported in The New York Times that the man incited a mob against a local detective trying to bust him for selling beer. He was known to run more than one “blind tiger,” a speakeasy variant that used the impossible animal attraction as a ruse to collect admission and give away libations. He thumbed his nose at the law, argued against the Dispensary in court, and gained the respect and love of our party animal ancestors in the process.
The city nearly shut down for his funeral in 1928, as well it should have. The “King of Blind Tigers” is someone we can all draw inspiration from. He was an underdog, a free spirit, an independent thinker, and a booze hound. What’s not to like?