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From English teacher to successful international bar owner

Frequented by foreigners and residents in Fukuoka on any given day, Cheers is often the top choice for hosting private events and meetups in the city – but it wasn’t always this way.

The 32 year-old owner Chuck says it all started about ten years ago in a tiny room in his apartment. He began offering English lessons and after increased success needed to move to a bigger space.

Widely recognized as the top international bar in Fukuoka, Cheers isn’t just a bar – it’s a community. We met with Chuck, the owner to learn more about the success behind it.

1. Tell us the story behind Cheers.

“The story of Cheers starts with CC Cafe, an English school turned international bar. I opened it  ten years ago in my apartment. Soon after, I moved it to Oyafuko-street and shortly after that, it got its reputation for being a popular international bar. Since I was kid my mind has been a constant buzz. I am always doing new things because I get bored so easily. At CC Cafe I was running new events every month – it got to the point that it was just too small. That is where the story of Cheers begins. I was lucky enough to find a great location in the center of town and opened Cheers and soon after, closed CC Cafe.”

2. Who is your main clientele and why do you think they choose Cheers?

“It’s a community of expats and locals. They come for the friendly community – everyone knows each other. Whether they come for a quick beer or stay for a full night out – there is always someone to talk to and chill with. I think a huge reason Cheers is as successful as it is, is knowing that no matter what day of the week you come, there will always be a familiar face.”

From English teacher to successful international bar owner

3. Why do you think more and more foreigners are deciding to move to Fukuoka?

“I am from Nagoya and have lived in Tokyo and Osaka before settling here. I think foreigners are moving here for the quality of life! The city is not too big or too small. Everything is walking or biking distance from the center of town. In 30 minutes you can be in front of the ocean or hiking a mountain trail – which is hard to find in the bigger cities. Also, the price for rent, transportation and food is cheaper here in comparison to major cities. With the ocean so close you can get amazing seafood dishes for unbelievable prices. Most significantly, the people you meet in this city are so friendly and warm hearted.”

4. What are the biggest challenges when it comes to managing your business ? 

“With ten years of bar experience, I have to say for me, and probably most business owners, is keeping a positive mindset through this pandemic. COVID-19 hit two weeks after I opened Cheers and I have probably felt every negative emotion humanly possible. I am learning to roll with the punches with a smile on my face. I hope that we can all get through this experience together and in five years we can look back and talk about “that crazy time” we all went through.”


5. What is the strangest thing or experience from your time managing Cheers?

“You know I can’t tell you the craziest things that have happened at Cheers. Which one CAN I tell? Alright, so there was one average night where we were all hanging out and drinking. We all had way too much to drink. For privacy purposes, let’s say there was a guy named ‘Dustin’. ‘Dustin’ was easily the drunkest of all of us, I mean he probably didn’t know where he was.
After last call it was time to go home. We all left the bar together and we could see him stumbling about outside. I asked him if I should call a cab for him but he says he is fine and will drink some water and go home. Three days later good ol’ ‘Dustin’ comes to the bar and asks what happened three nights ago. I tell him we were all just drinking and it was a regular night – he tells me that he blacked out, but was having flashbacks of falling off a train platform onto the tracks below. He said he woke up with broken ribs. That was a pretty crazy night but we will never really know what happened to good ol’ ‘Dustin’ at the train station.”

6. What advice would you give to other people who want to open a business in Fukuoka?

“I believe that Fukuoka is the best place to start something new. It is the fastest growing city in Japan for a reason. My advice for people trying to start a new business in Fukuoka is to make sure you do your research and always have the legal side of things set up. Lastly, don’t worry about what everyone else around you is doing. Focus on your business and what you are doing! Have fun with it.”

Fukuoka is still listed as the fastest growing city in Japan – and its thrilling startup scene is not slowing down. Chuck’s story is the epitome of what’s possible in this city if you have the right attitude and determination.


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