UPDATE!! Black Duck receives funding and will stay in business…hopefully for the next 40 years. Article here.
Westport nightlife staple The Black Duck Cafe plans to lock its doors for the last time on Sunday, November 4th. The classic watering hole has been an institution for over 40 years, cantilevered out over theSaugatuck River, and hosting generations of loyal diners and drinkers. The location was such a fixture of the Westport social scene, it's hard for us at CTBites to think we're close to seeing the end of it.
Reached for comment, Pete Aitkin, owner of the Black Duck, did not give any specifics, but said "it's something that's been a long time coming, but we finally had to do it. There are a lot of people very said about it, starting with me, but we're going to invite everyone to come back in one last time this Saturday and Sunday."
The Duck will be open Tuesday, October 30th, and Wednesday for Halloween, then take two days off before re-opening for the last times on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3-4.
Aitkin opened The Black Duck during his time as captain of a racing boat of the same name, with which he won the 1983 NPBA National- and World-Championships. The speedboat was named for the original Black Duck, a legendary bootlegger captained by Charles Travers during the low years of Prohibition. After an incident in 1929 with the Coast Guard, who decided if they couldn't catch the men of the Duck running rum, they'd kill them, all of the crew except Travers was left dead, the public outrage was said to have helped end the Prohibition era.
The Black Duck Cafe sits on pilings secured to a sunken ice barge from the days when refrigeration was scare, and ice from the Saugatuck River was brought to points south for storage and, one imagines, not a few clinking cocktails. Settling over time has lent the bar and grille a characteristic slant, like a sailor regaining his land legs after too long at sea, and it was rare that a pen placed on the bar to settle the night's tab didn't roll away on its own, back toward the water. The views of the river from seats at the bar took in sunlight across the rippling water, egrets flapping white wings, or in silent stalk of little fish at the river's edge, and anyone who pulled their boat up the bar's own slips. At night nearby lights would make flashes on the deepness of the water's surface, and illuminate the fishing pots loberstermen would leave on the mid-river trestles of the Suagatuck River Bridge for safekeeping. And always the smell of fried seafood, the burgers that temped Guy Fieri to show up with Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and the noise of bands playing over loud conversation, night after night.
Always, until sometime, early on Monday morning, when The Black Duck will see the close of yet another era.
The Black Duck Cafe; 605 Riverside Avenue, Westport, Conn.