With little prior warning, Budapest’s legendary Morrison’s Music Pub announced last month it would be closing its doors after 25 years on the go. Morrison’s hosted a final three day blowout over the Easter holiday week end and that was it. Gone “like Petőfi in the fog”, as Hungarians might say. Whilst the name lives on with the grand Morrison’s 2 still on the Nagykörút, the younger venue has always considered itself trendier than its older brother and aims at the in-crowd. It likes selfies, hashtags and Instagram. The thought of roaring your way through Wonderwall, pausing only to do a post chorus tequila would have Morrison’s 2 turning its nose up in hauteur. But the original Morrison’s? Well, such comportement was exactly what it was built to contain.
Two things which marked Morrison’s out for me were its spectacularly rude bouncers and its free beer. Granted, bouncers around the world are rarely renowned for award winning customer service but descending the stairs from the street into Morrison’s saw you being gestured towards a group of dudes whose demeanour genuinely made you question whether you had stashed something down the back of your jeans before heading out and then forgotten about it. Get past those guys though and the “compulsory” cloakroom and you were in. Free to explore the four room basement pub-come-club tucked in a small side street behind Budapest’s famous Opera House.
Morrison’s was a jack of all trades kind of spot, attempting to appeal to as many people as possible. Normally when a place tries to do that, it ends up failing at all of them but Morrison’s nailed it. Its various rooms comprised a bar for students and the after work crowd to prop up, a room for (reasonably) quiet drinks chat, complete with darts and table football, a karaoke room for when the night picked up later on and of course a dance floor with space for a live DJ set where Budapest’s beautiful souls could flaunt it. A shelf around the dancefloor allowed young pups to lean casually on the sidelines looking for someone to approach and then to slink back to and cradle their drink with their best nonchalant face after a knock back. The whole place had that fantastic kind of natural chaotic decoration that cannot be artificially created and that only comes through years of different sign and props being brought in and tacked to the walls or stashed behind the bar. Crowning this off was a fantastic electric model train positioned high above the crowd which ran around the rafters of Morrison’s throughout the night and into the early hours, catching the hypnotic gaze of many a boozy reveller as made its continuous looping journey.
No, I haven’t forget the free beer part. Indeed, for several years on Monday evening Morrison’s offered free beer for two hours to tempt the crowds in on what would otherwise be a quiet night. No ifs, not buts, no catches; just two hours of free beer. The beer in question was called ‘Morrison’s Beer’ and no further questions as to what that meant were not to be asked. It was part of the unwritten deal. Attempts to discover the origins of Morrison’s beer were just not on. It was free, you drank it, and then having already sunk a few you carried on anyway once they started charging, thus justifying the giveaway in their eyes.
For this particular scribbler and his group, Morrison’s was always a final parking spot after a night on the town. Packed around its sticky tables, a decade of friendships and romances were made, forged, split and reforged. Countless plans were made in the full knowledge they would never materialise, arguments raged, only to be forgotten the next morning and karaoke songs were mercilessly slaughtered on the altar of two-for-one cocktails and shots. In my final years in Budapest I frequented less and less as those around me moved en masse into the marriage and kids scene while I in turn switched the tequilas for Netflix.
In that sense its closure seems like it came at the right moment but at the same time it is a shame that the next generation will associate Morrison’s with the trendy meat market on the Korut rather than the original deal in the side street basement, which for two and a half decades served up offered the kind of atmosphere and chaotic night out that any proper after hours joint should.