Bye Bye Brook

With just a few bites of a bulldozer, the Cedar Brook Cafe is history.

When “the Brook” closed last June — after 71 years — it was the oldest continually operating gay bar in America.

Today — 8 months after the disco ball took its last spin, 2 weeks since the roof caved in from heavy snow — the corner of the Post Road and Cedar Road is just a pile of rubble.

Tomorrow — or soon thereafter — it may be a parking lot for Starbucks.

Unless a bank or nail salon gets there first.

And a few years from now, newcomers will think we’re kidding when we say that right there — across from Walgreens, just down from the diner — Westport once boasted one of the most historic gay bars in the country.

Sic transit Gloria Gaynor.

33 responses to “Bye Bye Brook

  1. Dick Lowenstein

    And across the street from the old Brook Cafe was Crazy Vin’s, now Starbucks!

  2. The owner made a mistake – depending on one’s point of view. Because the Cedar Brook Cafe was not only an historic gay bar, but was probably based on old zoning laws – the property can never be “what it once was” – it would have been smarter to have torn down each part bit by bit and have re-built each section one at a time in tandem, rather than tear it all down in one fell swoop. Now, the current zoning laws take effect. There is no protection for the property now – it is subject to Westport codes at this point.

    • The Dude Abides

      I suspect that is what “they” wanted. A parking lot vice a landmark gay bar. This may be Westport but still a lot of homophobic idiots around. They are merely “closeted” in their agendas which is somewhat ironic.

  3. SAD…
    STORY # ONE: many years ago, late at night with me out of cigarettes [I’ve since quit], a friend double parked while I went in to THE BROOK to get a pack from the cigarette machine. Told the bouncer at the door… “Just gettin’ a pack of cigarettes.” He laughed: “Buddy, ya know how many times I’ve heard that line? Tell ya’ what, gimme the ten bucks. You come outta’ here in two minutes with a pack of smokes in your hand, I’ll give the the ten bucks back.” So I went in… took a while for the bartender to find me and then give me a hand full of quarters. Nice place, nice music, everyone very friendly. Got my smokes and my ten bucks. Glad I made the scene:-)

  4. So sad to see this Westport Icon gone. When I saw the pics of the snow damage, my thought was … it’s going to be torn down.

  5. One time I was a wee young lad and I parked my car at the nearby shopping center (east of the diner) because the parking lot at Crazy Vin’s was full. As I walked past the Brook’s front area, I heard a long scream “faaaaaaggggooottttt” from a car speeding by.

  6. Dan posted this back in June:
    “Once upon a time, Westport had both a gay bar and a strip club. Right next to each other. The gay bar was The Brook. It sat on the Post Road near the Exit 18 connector — directly across from the state police barracks. The strip club — Krazy Vin’s – was next door, directly across Cedar Road. Today the state police barracks is Walgreens. Krazy Vin’s is Starbucks.”

    STORY # TWO:
    What these three places had in common was the Sherwood Diner 10 minutes after the bars closed. On night, I’m in the Sherwood with some friends after some partying, and I start to see a lot of guys coming in for “sober-up chow.” Most are obviously trashed, but in good spirits.
    Imagine the two distinct groups from Krazy Vin’s and The Brook; add booze and everybody’s high, yet there was absolutely no trouble… not even a hint. Everyone was totally polite, the bathrooms and waitresses were shared, the chow was great, and laughter was loud.

    On the way out, as I paid, I teasingly complimented the owner [cashier at that hour] on the way everyone was so polite and friendly despite their obvious differences. He laughed a little, and with a big smile, he pointed over to the counter behind me. Sitting on the first two stools were State Police Troopers, big pistols, bigger hats, eating 2AM breakfast. “I invite the State Police Officers over here for breakfast after the bars close… about half a dozen of them. Keeps everybody happy.”
    What a concept.

    • Richard Lawrence Stein

      Tom you are missing one huge component in your equation… Staples students… Since day one of the Sherwood Diner every Friday or Saturday night there were hungry Wreckers amongst that very interesting mix.

  7. My most-fun- ever Westport experience was a summer night in the mid-80s at The Brook. I pleaded with a friend of mine to take me there for an impersonator night that I’d seen a poster for. When we arrived, my friend (a regular) successfully pleaded with the bouncer to let me in.
    Inside was disco bliss, with ‘performances’ by Diana Ross, Carol Channing, Barbra and more. The music was loud, the lights blinking, the dancing non-stop, and EVERYBODY was laughing, drinking beer and having lots of fun. In WESTPORT !!! RIP Brook.

  8. Sic transit Gloria Gaynor.

    Thanks, Dan, for my first big laugh of the day.

  9. Wendy Crowther

    I saw the heavy equipment lining up a few days ago and hoped that only the collapsed portion of the building would be carted away. Deep down, I knew better. I figured the landlord jumped for joy when the roof collapsed. He now had an insurance claim and a good reason to demolish the rest of the place. Its “For Lease” sign surely couldn’t have been bringing in much interest.

    I felt sad yesterday when I drove by and saw it torn to shreds laying on the ground. I always liked the quirky, sagging, old Brook. Its rustic, cobbled-together appearance defied the odds throughout its historic, seventy-year, out-loud-and-proud career. May it rest in peace…sigh…pieces.

    A few months ago I wondered whether there was any chance that the building could be preserved as a historic landmark in Westport. I thought about looking into that possibility. However, I knew that if I pitched the idea, I’d have to own that idea, and I simply didn’t have the energy or time to try breathing life into another volunteer project. Soon enough, the snowiest January in CT’s recorded history buried the place for good.

    Sensible One makes a valid point. Tearing the remaining building down may have been a big mistake. We’ll have to wait and see what rises from the ground where generations once danced into the night, free to be themselves. No matter what, Westport has lost another little piece of its unique and interesting soul.

  10. When I was 16, I used to get picked up hitchhiking from guys coming from the bar. Those where the days when it was safe both to hitchhike and to have unprotected sex with hitchhikers.

  11. I briefly worked at Crazy Vin’s—it wasn’t a “strip club”, just a terrible dive.
    The name of the place was absolutely accurate.

    • Must be the drugs 🙂 Gwen ’cause I still have dream nightmares about girls on a stage at KKKrazy Vin’s very very (have another $10 beer) very gradually disrobing. Back on da block, we called those places “strip clubs.” Am I gettin’ too old to remember ? or has the lingo changed ? I only went there twice… as I guest, of course.

    • The Dude Abides

      Are you still dancing?

  12. You know, now that I think about it, during my very brief tenure there, I think Vinny was still trying to keep going the Italian restaurant that preceded him in that spot. Couldn’t make a go of it, I guess, and I suppose that’s when he made it into the “strip club” Crazy Vin’s. My mistake. Mists of time…

  13. Sic transit Gloria Gaynor

    I’m still chuckling 🙂

  14. There is a dark side to the Brook. How many died from contracting AIDS from that place? Too many to count. How many got behind the wheel of their car drunk and died in a crash? Again too many to count. Everyone that I partied with back in the late 70’s and 80’s are now all gone. Too many to count. But that’s not to say I had really good times there. I did. I am one of the survivors from that era. I will never forget The Brook. Too bad the generations that follow as they drive by will have NO IDEA what was once there for 71 years. (Nov. 1939 – June 2010)

  15. I go back to 1969…disco wave coming in platform shoes flux clothes and minis with sequins and shine…all were glamour stars dancing to the beatn you didn’t have to be gay to have a blast their. It was a wonderful time in my life…fond memories great karma will always stay on that site,.just like krazy convents where everyone from both bars mixed back and forth at night and always one he’ll of a time. Good bye cedar brook good bye crazy vin’s you won’t be forgotten…just like the titanic

    • It was crazy vincents the bar next door.what was great was everyone got along girls boys their was no predudus it was a time and many years later to closing just to let go and be free. Wonderful times in both bars and then hitting the diner for breakfast.