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May 7, 2009

Passing the Cat's Eye Pub from one Tony Cushing to another

tony cushing, sr.For decades, Tony Cushing Sr. (pictured) owned and ran the Cat's Eye Pub in Fells Point. He watched it grow from a neighborhood dive to a character-filled Fells Point haunt with live music every day.

When Tony died suddenly last year, the pub's future came into question. His widow, Ana Marie, took over temporarily, before passing the bar to their son, Tony Jr.

There's a great interview with young Tony (he's only 25) at Baltimore Magazine's On the Town blog. Check it out.

The interview with Tony Jr. reminded me of his father, who I only met once. But I'll never forget the encounter ...

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was walking around Fells Point, notepad in hand, looking for a bar to profile. (We used to do a weekly feature called Meet the Venue, which ran in the now-defunct LIVE weekend entertainment section.)

As soon as I set foot inside the Cat's Eye, Tony Sr. waltzes over and introduces himself. He must have spotted my notepad and the unmistakable newbie reporter look on my face (wide eyes, nervous grin -- you get the picture).

Tony had this tipsy glee most people get after tossing back a few rounds. I think that's just how he was, permanently. He pointed to the top of the bar back, where all the liquor bottles sat, and told me about this one bottle of tequila he picked up in Spain. It had a full-sized cobra in it, he said.

"Some bottles of tequila have worms in 'em. This one had a whole snake inside," he told me.

Tony said he kept the bottle on the shelf, waiting for a special occasion. Then one night, a pack of Pagan motorcycle gang members strolled in.

"We opened the bottle and drank the whole thing," Tony said. 

Then he paused for a second.

"They're not welcome here anymore."

Tony Sr. made the Cat's Eye into what it is today. And I have full faith that Tony Jr. will carry on his father's legacy and help keep the Cat's Eye a citywide destination for low key drinking, late night partying and great live music.

(Photo of Tony Sr. courtesy of Ana Marie)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:30 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


I had the great honor of working for "Big Tony" for over 20 years.

The Cat's Eye will continue to be a venue for great music and great people for years to come.

Tony was indeed a great man. He was a Fells Point fixture,everybody knew him. If The Cat's Eye ever had a "franchise" bartender in would be Terri. I've seen people come in and say " We're from Minnesota and we were here for a convention 2 years ago, remember us?." Terri might not remember the names, but she'll say"You're a bloody mary, hot, and you're a Beefeaters and tonic, no fruit. It never ceases to amaze me. You don't last 25 yrs. at a bar without doing something right.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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