There couldn’t have been a better soundtrack for the Bus Stop Pub’s last night in operation. Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy” faded into Nena’s “99 Red Balloons,” which faded into Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Tom Petty wailed about an American girl, and Mick Jagger assured a lover he’d never be her beast of burden. Everyone knew the lyrics, some people were dancing, and for one final time, everyone was enjoying the familiarity of a bona fide local.
For 38 years, the Bus Stop functioned as an unpretentious space for locals to gather, drink a beer, eat a piece of fried fish, and watch a game. On some nights there was live music, and on every night there was Keno. The wooden booths, with their red Formica tabletops, conjured the outdoor seating of a seafood shack, and the walls were adorned with portraits of regulars and celebrities painted by an artist — described to me by a bartender as a regular from the neighborhood — in the early 1990s. On those walls, you might see Sue from down the street adjacent to Ted Williams, and that was precisely the point.
I live in Allston, and I spent my share of nights drinking at the Bus Stop Pub — not enough nights to call it my local, but enough nights to fall in love with it. A few friends and I wanted to have one final drink at the Bus Stop, so we made our way down Western Avenue last Saturday to engage in the farewell festivities. The conversations — both overheard and initiated — were exactly what you’d hope for from a bar full of half-drunk to fully-drunk Bostonians.
“David Blaine was here once — then he wasn’t.”
“Remember the night [well-known news anchor] came in here? She was shattered. She had to be taken out on a stretcher.”
“You might have to throw a bottle at him to get his attention,” said a man named Rob as I waited at the bar for a beer. “His name is Steve.”
Rob’s friend then introduced himself to me as Campbell.
“As in the soup.”
Rob, who’s originally from Wales and moved to Boston in the late 1970s, told me that he and his entire family are immortalized in paint on the wall. He’s been coming to the Bus Stop since it opened.
“I get a discount rate,” he joked.
My friends and I left well before closing time — though we loved it, the Bus Stop was not ours to close down. And its shuttering means it never will be.
The Bus Stop’s closure is yet another sign that Lower Allston — and especially Barry’s Corner — is changing. Harvard is chewing up the neighborhood’s land faster than a flock of demented sheep, and luxury apartment complexes like Continuum — ownership of which remains a pipe dream for most of the city’s population — drive up rents. The Bus Stop Pub was evidence that regular folk still had a place in a city rapidly transforming into a playground for the well-heeled, and now it’s gone.