Berkeley’s oldest bar is closing.
After 56 years, the Albatross Pub — which was founded in1964, as the Free Speech Movement was getting off the ground at the nearby university — will be forced to shut its doors by Nov. 30, the owners have announced.
“A convergence of money running thin, no foreseeable re-opening date due to the ongoing pandemic, and new rent demands from our landlord, have simply given us no way to move forward,” they wrote on their Facebook page.
There won’t be a last call per se because the San Pablo Avenue pub has been closed since COVID-19 restrictions went into effect in mid-March. According to Berkeleyside, owner Andrew McGee contemplated serving food in order to reopen the bar but decided that the lack of an outdoor space would make survival chances slim.
A “Help Save the Bird!” GoFundMe account helped stave off closure for several months, he said.
Customers took to social media to express their sorrow over the news.
Kim Kulchycki’s “No!!!!!!” on Facebook was typical of the responses.
“I’m sorry to hear that — 2020 can’t end soon enough. I still remember celebrating NYE with you guys. Thanks for all of the great memories,” Casey Scheid added.
On Berkeleyside, customer John Brownson wrote: “The Albatross was one of a kind, and irreplaceable. Whenever I wanted to get together with someone for a few beers and some conversation, The Bird was our choice. We knew that we’d be able to hear each other, as we talked and munched from the bottomless popcorn bowl. The place had a vibe that was like no other: timeless, unhurried and quintessentially Berkeley, as I first knew it, fifty years ago. I’ll really miss it. Thanks to all responsible for making, and keeping it as it was, for so long!”
According to a 50th anniversary tribute article by Bay Area News Group writer Laura Casey, the Albatross opened when the Free Speech Movement was bursting out at UC Berkeley and college students gathered there to debate — and sometimes argue — its finer points. Bartenders were slipping drinks across the bar when The Beatles were sweeping the nation.
In 2014, then-owners Wendy Halambeck and Linda Zsilavetz, who had purchased the place in 1996, celebrated the milestone anniversary with 50 days of drink specials, retro cocktails and a 1960s band.
The art-filled bar was known for years for its array of games and its neighborhood clientele. Aside from a long list of social and board games kept behind the bar, the pub had several lanes for darts and a pool table.
During the 2014 celebration, an Albatross regular, Rebeka Newbold, described the vibe.
“You have an intelligent crowd. UC Berkeley students come in who have gotten me off on philosophical conversations,” she was quoted as saying. “Then you have your Average Joe coming in. It’s a big mix.”
This week, McGee offered some hope that The Bird might have a future in the post-pandemic era.
“We have made plans to move everything possible from within the Pub to storage in the hopes of finding a new home somewhere. We’re also anticipating having send off party somewhere socially responsible in the near future, so keep a look out for that, and we’ll be sure to notify everyone as soon as we know.
“From the bottom of our sad hearts we want to thank everyone so, so much for your generosity during these trying times to allow us to get as far as we have. We hope we can have a new beginning somewhere sometime in the future. Until then, cheers for now.
Details: 1822 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley; www.facebook.com/AlbatrossPubBerkeley