A week ago, the Cock n’ Bull was packed. While that may not be unusual for a Saturday night in the summer, this night was different. Most of the people there were familiar faces, too, all familiar to the place though not all familiar to each other. Some of the people there hadn’t been around in years, while others were newer.
A turnout like this should normally be cause for celebration and last Saturday, it was, however this celebration was a bittersweet one. It was the closing party of the Cock n’ Bull. This venerable Montreal drinking hole will close its red barn-like doors on Ste-Catherine Street for good after one final night of operation tonight and a staff party open to all tomorrow.
The sports bar across the street is expanding and moving the karaoke bar to where the Cock n’Bull is now. In order for this to happen, the Cock n’ Bull’s lease was terminated. You might call it Sergakis gentrification, call it sad or call it a new beginning in a different place, but regardless of what you call it, this is the end of an era.
No, it isn’t the end of the Cock n’ Bull, as they have plans to move to an as-of-yet undisclosed location, but it is the end of the Cock n’ Bull as countless drinkers know it and have known it since the place opened July 1st, 1964.
To put things in perspective, when the Cock n’ Bull opened, Montreal’s metro system was two years away from completion, the Olympic Stadium was still a sledding hill and most of the bars that now dot the city’ landscape were decades away from conception. This is a Montreal landmark.
It’s more than that, though, much more. It’s memories, many memories. For some it is a living room, for others it is a place to go to relax, for others it’s a place to work on projects.
“My first films were written there,” says Chris Zacchia, a former student filmmaker and current artistic director of Forget The Box TV. He can also remember doing homework and other assignments in the pub and reminisces about the decision-making process: “I’d say â€˜Hey guys, let’s get together and study, where should we go? Hmm, Cock n’ Bull?'”
The standard mix at the Cock n’ Bull, at least for the past few years, has been Concordia and Dawson students on break or still working as well as some regulars that look like they may have been coming there since the place opened. This mixing of generations isn’t sleazy the way it is on most of Crescent Street, but rather just a matter of course. Everyone gets along for the most part and drinks together.
For many, it’s also family and not just because it’s been run and even staffed by the McCann family since 1989 (when Ellen McCann bought it from original founder Peter Barry). There is a real sense of community which goes beyond the music shows and the reasonably-priced drinks.
Jerry Gabriel, a writer and performer with Forget The Box remembers a very smoke-filled environment (as it was a few years ago, before Quebec’s smoking ban), Herman the Dawson professor who was a regular and came back for the closing party and above all, randomness.
“I met a girl on arts and crafts night,” he commented, “we stuck macaroni to our foreheads.” Zacchia added: “where else could they put arts and crafts night, really?” It’s events like the arts and crafts night that helped build the community feeling and one only hopes that they will be carried over to the new place.
For now, though, we are left with the memories.
Cock n’ Bull favorites The Wells perform for the last show at Ye Olde Cock n Bull Pub tonight, August 28th starting at around 9pm, 1944 Ste-Catherine West