Letter from the Drinking Town #10 – Scal’s

Dear Worcester,

There is a corner in Worcester, that has an establishment that is always one of two things: a bar or an empty storefront that used to be a bar. In the 18 years I have been in the Worcester area, it has been a variety of bars. The corner is Mill Street and Main. You can find it in Webster Square. It used to Noamesco, Crow Bar, End Zone, and there were others. The names went fast and furious. I just spent a little time searching for those names and could not find them. That seems apt to me, the names of failed bars should not be kept forever on the internet. The names of failed bars should be forgotten like that fourth or was it fifth shot of whisky.  The names of failed bars should only be recalled in a restless sleep and then dissipate once more soon after waking.

A friend told me stories about going to that bar twenty years ago. Due to one of the stories, he and his workmates called the bar the Four Buck Pub. The story was so unsavory, I will not repeat it. Let us just say that you don’t want to know what the four bucks paid for, and let’s be pleased the establishment has changed hands. And changed hands. And changed hands.

It is now called Scal’s. It just opened about a week ago. It had been closed for quite a few months and now once again it was a drinking establishment.

Another friend from Nick’s took me aside the other day and whispered that she saw me coming out of the bar Scal’s. “That place that’s always some bar in Webster Square.” I told her I was doing it for the gin and tonic tour and she felt a little better about the whole thing. She told me that it has been a bar forever, a bar she never felt the need to enter. She said it’s not a great area and the parking is awful around there.

I told her that I read on the bar’s facebook that they arranged late night parking in the Chinese Restaurant across the street on Main. (See, I do my homework.) We talked about the madness, the pure hubris, in expecting a bar to survive.

In town, a bar might run down to nothing and turn into a farm stand (like the Alibi) or be paved over for a highway like 146 (as in the case of the Irish Club). Some bars are just husks. Due to leins and restrictions, they are just skeletons, that remain and wither (Irish Times and others). These will never be bars again. They are just ghosts. Ghosts you walk by not noticing them. Only when you are thirsty and lonely does it appear on the side of your glance.

But this corner. This corner is but cursed to always rise again as another drinking parlor. Doomed for eternity. The zombie apocalypse can sweep through the streets of Worcester, and this place will open up once more, serving the finest brain gin fizzes.

I went on a Sunday, in the middle of Memorial Day Weekend. I think I got there around seven or so. It looks better than it used to.

I had not been into the bar that is now Scal’s for something like a decade. Maybe even longer. The new owners definitely improved it. The bar is in the back. It’s comfortable. There is a focus on sports on the flat screens and there is a pool table and an area for darts. About ten people were in there. The bartender didn’t know what to do for a standard gin and tonic and he went to, what seemed to be the owner, who informed him that he toss in a little Tanquray with tonic and that will do the trick. It did. A fine drink for six bucks. No complaints there.

Actually, there will be no complaints at all. It’s not fair. It’s not fair to judge a bar on the first few days. Yes, the only people there were friends of the bar. They all knew each other. It did feel like a club house with me elbowing in uninvited.

But it is brand new and it needs to build its brand. I hope that it will do well. I hope that it will thrive. But let me frank? Does Worcester need another joint with a dart board and a pool table? Is there too much of a log jam at the other 20 or so “sports bars” that there needs to be another? Do we require another flat screen laden wall showing Red Sox and ESPN 2? Do we need the same thing we have down the road, just in a cleaner, newer model?

I ask these questions not to be a jerk (being a jerk is just an added bonus) but because I really don’t know. Is there an endless need for a good bar? Are our alcohol drenched shoulders large enough to carry all comers across the river to success?

I hope so. I have seen too many bars disappear. I am almost relieved that there is  this corner, this bar phoenix, is here as a sign that the bar scene is not going away. So you want a bar in Webster Square, this one ain’t bad. Give it a try.

Until Next Time



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