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