CAMBRIDGE – If any establishment manages to survive more than ten years (a feat on par with tightrope walking in the greater Boston area), you can be certain they’re going to wear that badge of pride like a bad toupee. Particularly if you manage to last several decades. Did you honestly eat at Durgin Park for the experience? No. You ate there because it was a landmark—a fact which they never failed to remind you in between your next round of warm beer and four day old roast beef. Do you recall the last time you ate at the Union Oyster House? Probably when you were six years old, but don’t worry. It’ll still be around for your great, great grandchildren to enjoy (only as an Amazon-sponsored culinary experience.) Longevity is a sign of nostalgia; an innately human trait even if you can’t remember what exactly you’re nostalgic about.
It’s no different for bars, either. You rely on a neighborhood pub to act as both a compass and a barometer. And you can be reasonably sure that any cultural shifts in a given neighborhood can be accurately measured by just how long a bar can stay open. Are the recent closings of Doyle’s and Tom English’s Cottage reflective of a changing landscape? Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that for better or worse, there’s virtually no neighborhood immune to gentrifi—er... change.
East Cambridge is no exception. It may lack the real estate buzz you’ll find enthusiastically lauded by other neighborhoods, but it’s still a chafing dish of high risk condominiums, low risk condominiums, and virtually any risk whatsoever condominiums. But despite real estate gambits and “here today-gone today” biotech start ups, there gratefully remained a few stubborn hold outs. Wednesday saw one of those last few finally close for good.
After 76 years of continued operations, Courtside finally closed its doors on Monday, leaving hundreds of sports fans, casual drinkers and professional drinkers in the dark. But the closing of the long standing bar isn’t just the result of increased commercial leases or a changing landscape.
“My wife has myeloid lymphoma,” owner John Alberts told Boston.com. “I need a new hip. I’m 76 years old, and it was time.”
Alberts took over ownership of the bar in 1970 from his father, who first opened the pub in 1943. “I never thought I would do this job and then I ended up here for 50 years,” he elaborated. “I just liked it. I liked being with people. It was always exciting. We always made sure we had good people here, and I never let anyone bother anyone else.”
It was that distinction which wasn’t lost on the likes of the Boston Globe, who named it one of their “56 Favorite Bars” earlier in April (guess you decided to go “slumming” after your third ginger martini at Alibi.) Nor was it lost on generation upon generation of patrons who were just as likely to come into Courtside for a cheap pitcher as they were for food of questionable origin. And Keno. And, er… karaoke.
(No one admits to liking karaoke. Sober. I’m not one of them. But there is something heartwarming about a rendition of “Keep On Lovin’ You” belted out by a pharmaceutical statistician in the middle of his second beer. So much so, that you simply have to drink it for him while he’s on stage.)
While Alberts says he has no plans to sell Courtside, he’s also not likely to reopen it.
“What do you say when you’ve been in business for 76 years? The only thing I can say is thank you,” Alberts told Boston.com.
“We’re the last of the neighborhood dive bars. I used to think that was a bad term, but it isn’t. We have reasonable prices, and we’re a friendly place.”
Image via Yelp