It was my first and last night at the landmark Zoo Pub, the legendary nightspot closed its doors for good after a final Saturday night on May 28.
I saw the stuffed wolf and the incredible mural paintings, and a rambling assortment of rooms under low ceilings with a generous dance floor, and a line up across the room.
People were also lining up to get in as I left, and we were all clamouring for a chance to witness a historic event and get one last story.
Some people were making the stories, as according to patrons present towards the end of the night, two different attempts were made to liberate the iconic stuffed wolf.
Perhaps people wanted to hold on to a piece of history or perhaps they wanted to save the ragged fellow from demise, either way, it was one more story for people to recount of a clearly memorable place.
The building was reportedly originally built in 1961 and opened in 1962.
Wes Whitely said his father bought the building back in 1977, which Wes Whitely now owns with his brother Mark Whitely and their sister Cindy Slorstad.
Apparently, the bar originally opened with separate sections for men and women, explaining in part why there are so many rooms and sections to the establishment.
While the building sale is not completely final, Whitely did say the potential purchasers are two men from Prince George.
Details are not being released until everything is finalized, but The Zoo has sold out its stock and the cold beer and wine store, Larry’s House of Spirits, will remain open for the time being.
While Whitely does not plan on retiring after the completion of the sale, he is looking forward to a change of direction.
He also said while things have changed, with liquor regulations becoming more restrictive, he enjoyed all the great people over the years.
As for the last night, Whitely called it “awesome” saying “everyone was well-behaved.”
The two large mural paintings in the pool room, painted by Loretta White, which were the subject of great debate on Saturday as to their possible futures, were also under consideration by Whitely.
He said if the buyer of the property does not want them, he would like to have the one “All Zood Up” which he is in as the waiter, and his sister would like the other painting.
In honour of the closing of a town icon, The Courier has collected some stories and recollections of The Zoo, showing it will live on, if only in legend.
From The Zoo’s own Facebook page:
“My boyfriend and I went into the Zoo Pub in the middle of the day just to pose with the wolf. I really miss this classy bar and it’s massive amazing dance floor, not to mention those super duper clean bathrooms. The Zoo Pub blows every bar outta the water. Bahahaha.” Johanna MacDougall.
“I remember this persistent guy poured a beer into my shoe and drank it … they told me he was my cousin and not to take my shoes (off) for for him anymore,” said Maryann Larkin.
“I had so much fun there with family and friends. Gonna miss The Zoo Pub, never gonna be the same,” said Mona Sam.
Other accounts from past patrons recall more colourful stories.
One recounted a story he heard about a Catholic mother warning her son, who was moving to the Fort, not to set foot in the pub because the one time she had been there years before she had witnessed an altercation ending in a stabbing.
One story was of a VHS video discovered as a youth, showing a pool-cue brawl from the 1990s.
The pub’s reputation also reached far beyond the area, as one person explained, “I heard about The Zoo before I even moved here from Vancouver.”
Many of the stories recounted were more on the humorous side. In one, hunters who had just shot a moose went into The Zoo for a drink to celebrate their success upon getting such a large moose, whose head the hunter planned to mount. When they came out, the nose and tongue had been stolen from the animal.
Another past patron worried people will party more in private residences causing issues for police, but the local RCMP did not share her concern.
Sergeant Craig Peterson said these days The Zoo was like any other bar in most towns.
“It wasn’t a huge issue for us.”
Whatever The Zoo was, I think one local summed it up the best, calling it “a piece of history.”
While he said he won’t be sad to see something take its place, The Zoo will always house some fond memories.