Going out in a blaze of glory

Gil Bear's
Gil Bear’s – private collection

Yesterday. a Millville, NJ icon went out in a blaze of glory. Gil passed a year ago. and the bar had been shuttered for several years.  Gil allowed the license to lapse rather than to sell it for less than he thought it was worth. It was sort of a thumbing of his nose to the big chains that were coming into town and buying up the licenses for their sterile corporate boxes, I imagine.

John’s Place went out with one helleva party – I was there – and is now home to the Fraternal Order of Eagles.  Ottos went out with a whimper – and I here the building is soon to be razed. An inglorious end to a Millville original.  I was at Otto’s on the last day, too. Are we noticing a pattern here?

I wasn’t at Gil Bear’s on the final day.  I don’t know if anyone was – he opened and closed when he pleased.

Gil Bear's Afternoon
Gil Bear’s Afternoon – oil on canvas – 16×20 – $500

Yesterday, about 11AM Arizona time, a friend from Millville posted the pics of Gil Bear’s with smoke pouring out between the first and second floor of the wood frame building. I knew from that initial photo that the building would be a total loss.  Three alarm fire, with all of the local fire departments on the scene, another friend, Ed Schwegel,  caught what I believe to be the only video of Gil Bear’s collapsing as the gas main exploded. Hopefully the link below works for you – Facebook can be temperamental.


Gil’s was one of those bars that flew under the radar. It was a quiet bar for a shot and a beer on a Saturday afternoon. There were three dart boards for tournaments. Pool tables. And on a slow day Gil Bear would share stories of Millville’s sordid past – naming names and giving background information that otherwise had been forgotten over the years. Stories of Leon behind the Levoy Theater, of a Finch cahaining himself to a tree on an islet on the Maurice River downstream of Kerr Glass, of Carlton the Ice Man breaking into City Liquor, and getting drunk on Boone’s Farm and falling asleep on the floor.

Gil Bear’s didn’t have the notoriety of John’s Place, was not known for the misogyny of Otto’s Bar. It wasn’t Kirby’s with the coke in the men’s room and bar fights in the parking lot. It wasn’t The Pond, nor Larry’s. It was nondescript, a neighborhood bar, a safe haven for a quiet afternoon, for a game of pool, for good conversation. It was a working class blue collar bar. There are fewer and fewer of them in Millville. 

So here is too Gil Bear’s!  RIP Gil, and RIP Gil Bear’s.


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