MERIDEN — The owner of City Tavern said Monday that the bar will be forced to close permanently later this month.
Owner Cindy Cox said her landlord has told her to vacate after an April 26 incident in which several gunshots were fired into the building.
”He said he wanted me to close immediately,” Cox said. “I had just paid my rent for May, so I said ‘that’s not going to happen.’”
According to city records, Gordon Ives of Middletown owns the property. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
The landmark bar at 521 Broad St. has been open for about 60 years and went by the name of Milner’s until seven years ago, Cox said. The bar will close on May 31.
Cox said she was trying to sell the business and paying rent month to month after her lease expired. She had hoped to sell the entire business and was waiting for the right owner.
Police continue to investigate the incident which left three bullet holes in City Tavern’s front window in addition to six bullet holes in the upstairs apartment. No one was injured. There have been at least eight reports of shootings or confirmed shots fired incidents this spring and most remain under investigation. Shots were also fired into a home at 176 Broad St. near Ann Street a week ago.
Cox this week listed City Tavern’s barroom equipment and pool table for sale in classified ads and said she plans to hold an auction.
Local real estate agent Edward Siebert brokered the sale of the business from the Johnson family to Cox’s husband Eddie Hinchberger, who renamed it City Tavern.
“It was an iconic neighborhood gin mill, the last of its kind,” Siebert said. “It’s a great little spot.”
Three people work at City Tavern and will now have to find other jobs, she said. The regular customers are at a loss that the their gathering spot will close.
“This is a landmark,” said Dino Cavicchioli. “I’ve been coming here 20 years when the Johnsons had it.”
Regular customers, known as the Breakfast Club, have been known to come in as early as 9 a.m. for their first shot of whiskey for the day.
Other customers said City Tavern was a neighborhood bar that welcomed people and never had any problems.
“I play the juke box and pool,” said Brontain Stringer. “There’s not a person who comes in here that we don’t know.”
Stringer was playing pool when the shots were fired into the front window. She and another player dropped to the ground for safety but didn’t see anything.
“It’s going to be a shame,” Stringer said. “It’s comfortable here, we’re like family. We have parties, never had a problem. The problems from the west side are now coming to the east side. But it’s not a person who comes here.”
Cox and the other employees will continue serving customers throughout the month and the long Memorial Day weekend.
“We have a lot of nice people here,” Cox said. “My husband Fast Eddie ran it for two years. When he died I ran it for five years. We had a lot of fun with it.”
Correction: Real estate agent Edward Siebert’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.