As this is our list of best bars, let’s take just a moment to remember one of the best bars that is no longer. When a bar closes, an entire constellation of relationships comes to an end, too. In this sense, a bar resembles something of an aquarium or a petri dish: this collection of beings is held together in that physical space for the reason of the physical space alone. When it’s gone, the group of people will never come back together.
The Anchor, in my fondest memories, was where the oddballs and weirdos of downtown New Haven drank. With its neon lights, positively gorgeous Wurlitzer jukebox, semi-circle booths and carpeting, it was completely and totally unique for downtown New Haven. No other bar resembled the atmosphere or attracted that particular gathering of people. No bar has done so in the three years since it closed.
There was a piece of advice floating around the internet about how to find the best bar in a given city.
- Go to online sites TripAdvisor or Yelp and look up what the best bar is.
- Go to that bar.
- Ask the bartenders where they drink when they’re not working.
- Go to that bar.
The Anchor was that bar.
After sitting on College Street near the corner of Chapel Street for some three quarters of a century, the Anchor closed its doors without fanfare, with the silence of death, in January 2015. Yale’s property development arm, which was the Anchor’s landlord, declared after the fact that the business was in arrears and had to be shuttered. Yale replaced the Anchor with its own version a year later. Of this we will not speak.
There is a T-shirt and bumper sticker for sale that reads, “New Haven: I really liked you better back when you really sucked.” The phrase, according to its creator, was first uttered at the Anchor, during a toast to a just-deceased friend. The Anchor is dead, and we may not see the likes of it again.