Pouring one out: The Sutherland Bar sings its swan song

By in News
The Sutherland Bar sign on 810 Central Avenue, Saskatoon.

One of Saskatoon’s oldest and most beloved watering holes has turned off its taps for good. The Sutherland Bar, commonly referred to as the Scuzz, served Saskatonians for more than a century and prioritized the patronage of University of Saskatchewan students in its later years.

The bar’s closure was first announced in July when Trevor Mawson, sole proprietor since 1986, said that ownership of the establishment would be transferred to Rayner Agencies following the club’s closing on Oct. 30, citing personal reasons for his decision to sell. Joining the likes of the distinguished Broadway drinkery Lydia’s Pub, which was demolished in 2015, the Sutherland Bar will be converted into office space.

Aurielle Bleau has worked at the Sutherland Bar for nearly four years, first as office manager and later as general manager of the establishment. Bleau says that she was involved in Mawson’s decision to sell the establishment.

“It was a hard decision for him. He worked here his entire adult life. His dad bought it in the 80s, and he took over in 1986,” Bleau said. “This has been his bread and butter, and to say goodbye to that is not an easy thing, especially to have to say goodbye in a downturn economy where this industry isn’t doing the greatest. We wish it were different.”

Beyond Mawson’s personal reasons, Bleau says that changes in drinking culture in the city, competition with downtown clubs and the zero-tolerance driving laws that were introduced in January 2017 were all factors that were considered in the decision to close the doors for good.

For Bleau, the decision to close the bar especially impacts the staff.

“It was a very fun job, especially when it was busy and everyone was having a good time. I’m going to miss that,” Bleau said. “For the staff, a lot of them are losing their jobs… They all really liked working here. Everyone was really disappointed when I gave them the news. A couple people quit, and some were angry. Some people have worked here for over 10 years.”

Although the bar employed around 25 core staff members that oversaw the day-to-day workings, Bleau says that the number of total employees swelled to 75 for their final event.

On Oct. 27 and 28, the Sutherland Bar held their last event, The Final Destination: Drink the Scuzz Dry. While it was the symbolic last call for the drinkery, the Halloween-themed party kept the mood light with a costume contest and student-only specials. For Bleau, the student focus of the event was important, as the bar survived off the patronage of students in its last years.

“[Students] have carried the Sutherland Bar for a solid decade, if not from the early 90s to 2015,” Bleau said. “They are what generated income here and were our priority here, and that’s why I wanted to do a big party for university students. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be as successful as we were.”

Ultimately, Bleau says that the legacy of the Sutherland Bar will be remembered through its affectionate, if slightly disparaging, nickname.

“It’s going to be remembered as the Scuzz, hands down. My boss hates that word, but it’s true. It’s not that it’s scuzzy in there… I think it’s more the attitude. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, people would come and get so drunk, and that’s where the word came from,” Bleau said. “It’s an old wooden hotel, and it’s dark, but it’s clean and maintained — but people will always remember the bar as the Scuzz.”

Updated: Nov. 5, 2018

Tanner Bayne / News Editor

Photo: Riley Deacon / Photo Editor