Bertha’s Mussels — a 51-year relic of a Fells Point era gone by — took its final curtain call Monday night, owner and co-founder Tony Norris said.
The Fells Point landmark had become one of Baltimore’s most recognizable restaurants, with loyal patrons smacking their signature “EAT BERTHA’S MUSSELS” bumper stickers on objects far and wide, while on trips to destinations such as the Great Wall of China and the South pole.
The Norris family announced its closure over social media last year, alongside their intentions to bring the building to Alex Cooper’s auction house. But bidding was abruptly canceled after the price soared beyond $1 million.
“We didn’t get what we wanted to get,” Norris said in a previous interview with The Baltimore Banner.
Now, Norris has shuttered Bertha’s doors as he steps into a new era: retirement.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Mara O’Connell, a Bertha’s regular who flirted with purchasing the pub with others in the neighborhood until last month.
She was one of the community members who crowded into the restaurant “cheek by jowl” Monday night in what O’Connell described as an Irish wake to both celebrate and commiserate Bertha’s passing.
“We had a buyer,” she said. But they needed more money to repair the building. “We were running out of time.”
No longer were Bertha’s doors swinging with a late-night crowd. The beloved bar rarely opened late and struggled to bring in diners during lunch and dinner, according to O’Connell.
Founded in 1972, the bar had been a staple of the affordable-yet-seedy “foot of Broadway” today known as Fells Point.
The pub wrapped around the neighboring Brightside Boutique storefront and included an unused dining room upstairs, with an abandoned dance studio and storage closet that “may contain a ghost,” according to a previous Banner report.
While many who frequented the tavern expressed interest in keeping Bertha’s alive, other Baltimore restaurateurs showed little interest in taking over.
“We neither signed up for the auction nor bid on this property,” said Alex Smith of the Atlas Restaurant Group previously told The Banner.
Ashish Alfred, owner of Duck Duck Goose and other Fells Point restaurants told The Banner the venture was not for him.
“It’s an amazing piece of Baltimore and hopefully it goes to someone cool,” he said at the time.
This article has been updated.