If you’re a recent graduate of Crazy Go Nuts University, the name “Alfie’s Pub” doesn’t really mean much to you; perhaps you considered it the “bar of last resort”. From what I’ve seen from recent Homecomings, the bars in town do a much better job of catering to the students than the student-run pubs.
It wasn’t always that way. During my era — that’s September 1987 through December 1994 — town-gown relations were a little dicier. Local businesses seemed to view the students as a necessary evil; although we pumped a lot of money into Kingston’s economy, the locals were rather annoyed with us (sometimes rightfully so), the businesses never quite got the knack of catering to non-locals. What sort of people were the locals? Let’s put it this way — a popular joke at CGNU was “Q: What do you call a townie in a three-piece suit? A: The deceased.” (Or alternately, “the defendant”.)
Back then, the Holy Trinity of student pubs — Alfie’s, the Quiet Pub and Clark Hall Pub — were where most of the students went. The Quiet Pub (I believe it’s the “Queen’s Pub” now) was the “date pub”, with a fireplace, large comfy chairs and as its name implied, wasn’t as noisy as most places where students and alcohol intersected. Clark Hall Pub was run by the engineering students and thanks to the efforts of DJs like Colin Climie, myself, George and Chris “Turner” Turner, became the place you’d go for alt-rock and new music. Alfie’s was the largest student pub; it promoted itself as a dance bar and was the student “meet market” during its heyday.
Alfie’s was located in the basement of the John Deutsch University Centre, which was more often called the JDUC (pronounced “Jay-Duck”). Its main entrance was a large concrete stairwell that looked like the entrance to a subway station. If you were a CGNU student of my era (admittedly, my career there spanned two eras), you’ve likely stood for an hour or so in line in that stairwell at least once. We tolerated the Cold War era Soviet grocery store-like line because of the promise of Alfie’s: our friends would be there, the pitchers of beer, although served at Alfie’s trademark glacial pace, were cheap and plentiful (CDN$5.40 back in 1987) and there was always a chance one would “hook up”. During the latter half of my stay at CGNU, Jerome Poon-Ting, a.k.a. DJ Sugar and DJ Jenn did an excellent job of keeping the tunes going.
Although the pub nearest and dearest to my heart remains Clark Hall Pub, I’ve also got many Alfie’s memories. I’ve only been in two bar fights over a girl; the one I lost was at Alfie’s. One of the funniest stories about DJing I have took place when I got called in as a substitute DJ at Alfie’s (unfortunately, it’s unbloggable). Some of my greatest “rock star” moments have been at Alfie’s, on whose stage I have played keyboards with several different bands. I’ve had hook-ups, break-ups and piss-ups there; I’ve managed to avoid throw-ups there (unlike some pals of mine who shall go unnamed).
I just received some email from the Toronto branch of the CGNU Alumni Association. One of the items it covered was an event called Alfie’s Does Toronto. Apparently, it’s some kind “relive the glory days of Alfie’s” party that takes place on Friday, April 28th at 8 p.m. at the El Mocambo. I may have to round up a posse for this one. Who’s game?