You can make a lot of observations, none very happy, about the abrupt closing of the Anchor, the best dive bar that I ever knew in New Haven. You can complain about how abruptly it closed, how the landlords are jerks for making this happen. You can mourn the dead. You can also hope that it isn't really over. The space is still the Anchor, as I type this: the sign is not lit, but it is still hanging. The blue banquettes are still there. The jukebox, oh, the jukebox, is still there. But it doesn't look good.
Last night, Sunday, January 4th, almost everyone I knew in New Haven was in a sharply pained state as the news got around that the 4th would be the Anchor's last night of operation. I myself changed my plans for the night so that I could get there for one last drink. I'd planned to feed my daughter dinner and put her to bed in her flannel owl pajamas, read her a bedtime story, maybe watch a movie with my husband. But I said to him, "I will read the bedtime story and then I'm going downtown." He said, "I'll do bedtime. Just go." So I went downtown. It was raining. I left the house at 8.24 and arrived at 8.57 to find the Anchor's doors locked. I stood there confused. Locked? It wasn't even nine o'clock. The bells were ringing on the Green just then. A reporter stood at the door, talking to some girls in their twenties who smiled and told him how much they loved the place. "I led Bible study groups here," one of them said.
I remembered a lot of nights at the Anchor, and quite a few afternoons. I wondered if I should just turn around and go home. I said to my friend M., who was standing there almost teary-eyed, "I don't know what to do," and I listened to the others standing around: "Should we go to Rudy's? Three Sheets?" It was morbid to talk about going to another bar, under the circumstances, but at the same time, turning around and going home seemed unthinkable.
M. and I went to Cafe 9, where a band was playing and the saxophone was too loud. We could barely hear each other when we spoke. One of the things I loved about the Anchor was that you could have a real conversation there. Personally, I used to go and bring a book with me and read while I drank. The Anchor was a gross place, and it was a beautiful place, and it was, for a lot of people, an essential third place.
When Mark Oppenheimer -- the founder of the New Haven Review -- came back to New Haven to take over the job of editing the New Haven Advocate, he and I crossed paths his first week on the job. We were, you could say, acquainted with one another, tenuously. It seemed clear (to me; I can't speak for him) that we were going to be in each other's lives, at least for a while, and that we should get to know each other a little better. I suggested we have a drink. The obvious place to go was the Anchor.
I hope it can be resuscitated, because if it cannot be, I'm really not sure I can find a replacement. There is no other obvious choice, not for me.