A few years ago we were informed of the closing of Duffy’s Tavern in Amherstburg, Ontario (not to be confused with the old radio program Duffy’s Tavern in the 1940s). It was in December during the Christmas holidays, so we decided to go over to Duffy’s for one last excellent perch dinner, for which they were renowned. We were informed recently that our last visual image of this original icon was leveled in June of this year.
The original part of the building was the old Fraser home built in 1870. In 1940 it was purchased by Alec Duff, who then expanded and converted it into Duffy’s Tavern. The original house still stood in the center of the building. In 1948, Vucinic Zarko, affectionately called Mr. Z by patrons, purchased the Tavern and retained the name. He remained the owner for 60 years until its closing. The City of Amherstburg purchased the property and future planning is still in transition.
Over the past decades, Duffy’s was the site of numerous weddings and weekend parties. Downriver boaters looked forward to a Friday and Saturday evening of eating, drinking and dancing. These nights were so busy, boaters lined up in the Amherstburg channel waiting for an empty slip. Duffy’s provided a place for Downriver boaters to tie up, call customs and enjoy an “international experience.” This edifice anchored the town of Amherstburg and probably acted as the unofficial town hall.
Now, the vacant boat docks in the 70 slip marina are a staging area for “seagulls.” Faded are the memories of a crowded marina with all its laughter and enjoyment.
Today, more stringent regulations have slowed the tourism on the Canadian side of the river. Previously, your U.S. Passport could take you anywhere in the world. However, today it will not let you cross the Detroit River by boat. You must have a Government issued I.D. for everyone aboard the craft. A hefty fine ensures compliance.
I firmly believe, despite the current headwinds of this entity, the purchase of this property is very promising. With planning still in transition, the history of this area includes Fort Malden and its museum. The surrounding Navy Yard Park showcases the beautiful riverside views.
I can envision small boutiques, ice cream and fudge shops along Dalhousie Street, along with a wedding chapel accompanied by carriage rides gracing the quaint streets, taking advantage of the town’s charms. This could be accomplished by a first-class hotel (built on Duffy’s site) to bring together the local attributes. Ontario wineries are but a short distance away.
Yes, it’s all here. I would just hope the future will give Amherstburg a guiding hand, in elevating it to its former motto — “The best host on the Canadian coast.”