There are no takers yet for a three-storey lager-laden piece of Hamilton history, the Carlton Tavern on King East near Wentworth.
Decades ago, the city had many beverage rooms like the Carlton — the Bright House, Picton House, Sherman House, Cecil House, the Bayview, the Regal, to name a few. Men would show up after a day at the factory and sometimes stay longer than they should. Their wives might join them on a Saturday night.
But those factory jobs left town. The beer parlours no longer had guys coming in and cashing their cheques at the bar. One by one, the old places closed.
The Carlton, however, carries on. Young-Chui (Chris) Yoon, 66, put the place on the market early this year. "Owner retiring," the online listing says, "time for new blood." List price, $350,000.
After six months, many would be tempted to drop the price. Yoon declares he’s decided to raise it to $400,000. This is history, after all.
He does know the history is tarnished. "All these years, I’m still carrying a bad name. The Balmoral was the same, but it’s gone." The infamous Balmoral was just three doors away. It closed on Apr. 30, 2005. Yoon remembers the day, because his business immediately took a bounce.
He says the Carlton doesn’t deserve a bad rep anymore. The sign at the front door carries this greeting: "Anyone Caught Buying, Selling or Using Crack Will Hope The Cops Get Here First!"
In the beginning, around 1934, it was the Carlton Hotel, with proprietors Fred J. Berryman and James Dailey. Up the stairs, there were 15 guest rooms on two floors. They’re still there. The ceilings are high, the bathroom’s down the hall. The rent, $350.
Central air, no. Tenant Archie Wallis, retired, keeps his shirt off through the summers. "It’s quiet, no problems," he says. He makes sure the cats of the Carlton fed.
Downstairs, where the business of beer is conducted, the Carlton has many amenities. Pool table, dart boards, Cyclone pinball machine, jukebox, a VHS-tape and paperback library, a handy 19-volume Encyclopedia Britannica from 1979, half-a-dozen tube TVs — no plasma, please.
A bottle of beer here is $3.90. You can find it for a buck or so cheaper in other places, but they’re not the Carlton.
"I’m part of the furniture," says Bob Mercer. He’s still wearing his orange safety gear, fresh from hopping on and off the garbage truck for another hot 10-hour day. "I know everybody here."
The Carlton is licenced for 104, but hasn’t seen that kind of crowd for a very long time. There is karaoke four nights a week and the Friday crowd is decent.
The sanitation man is always a draw. He begins with Elvis, builds with Kenny Rogers and brings down the house with James Brown. By the time Mercer sings "I Feel Good," he means it.
Owner Yoon, however, is weary of it all. The Carlton has been his life for nearly 25 years, and that’s long enough. But if you’re going to buy him out, best to do it now — before the price goes up again.
You can read more CBC Hamilton stories by Paul Wilson here.