The timeless Wray's Tavern - serving up fun since 1825

June 15, 2017
Clint 'Tony' Eastwood welcomes one and all to the historic Wray's Tavern in downtown Kingston.
Owner of Wray's Tavern, Clint 'Tony' Eastwood has many plans for the iconic bar, which has stood the test of time.
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What are the odds that the man who runs an old-school tavern has the given name of cowboy movie legend Clint Eastwood?

Clint Anthony 'Tony' Eastwood, owner of the iconic Wray's Tavern on King Street, North Parade, in downtown Kingston, has had a love affair with the city, and J. Wray & Nephew, for some time.

After graduating from Wolmer's Boys, he got a job at his uncle's stationery business in Kingston.

But his friend Dennis Barnette, a J. Wray & Nephew employee, told him of an opening at the company. Eastwood was hired and quickly became a salesman, which took him to many of the taverns around the then bustling city.

He reeled off tales of hanging out with his friends, Beanie Reynolds, Mike Hill and Buddy McConnell. Wray's Tavern was among their many stops.

It was the company's first bar in Jamaica and started out as The Shakespeare Tavern back in 1825. It was well known to Eastwood and his friends.

"We developed a healthy appetite for all kinds of fun," Eastwood laughed, recalling the mid to late '60s, when the tavern was already well established as a landmark.

It has always been at the heart of fun and trade in downtown Kingston.

In the '90s, Buddy's brother, William, and Anthony Bell encouraged Eastwood to rent the bar, which he did. When Gruppo Campari took over J. Wray & Nephew, the bar was available for purchase.

"After a 47-year relationship, I am the proud owner of the most iconic bar in downtown Kingston," Eastwood said. Two years into ownership, Eastwood is enjoying every minute of it.

 

STANDING TALL

 

The city isn't as vibrant at night as it was in his younger days, but though many social spots have crumbled with time, Wray's Tavern has stood tall.

"The main thing is location. And Wray & Nephew has its name, because you know that when you go into a Wray & Nephew bar, you're not getting any watered-down rum," he said.

People are waiting for him to open at 9:30 a.m. daily. Many travellers, from the businessman to the odd tourist, have wet their whistle there. But one demographic stands out.

"The 'walk foot man' is who I want enuh, that's the man," he said. "(A drink) of White Overproof rum and one cigarette, that's it for them. No credit card business," he laughed.

Eastwood also has plans to give the old tavern a facelift, but with an old twist.

"I want to bring back those swinging doors like the Old West saloons," he said. He also has plans to retile the establishment, giving it a more modern look.

Not too modern, mind you, as the rustic feel is what keeps people coming back.

"It's not one of the iconic spots downtown, it is 'the' iconic spot," he said. "This (he says looking around the tavern) is the real thing."

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