Mount Royal Tavern owners Chris Kozak, left, and Ron Carback… (Jed Kirschbaum, Baltimore…)
Better watch what you say if you're planning a night of boozy revelry at the venerable Mount Royal Tavern, which recently installed a "Cuss Bucket" for those getting a little too loud and creative with their profanity.
"It's a bar, and I don't mind a 'hell' or a 'damn' — they're allowed to use them — but when people start yelling the other profanities, that's it," said Ron Carback, who has owned the bar in the 1200 block of W. Mount Royal Ave. with his partner, Chris Kozak, since 1985.
Not that the two men are prudes, killjoys or trying to replicate the sanctity of the Baltimore Country Club. But they did think something had to be done in the name of civility in confronting the endless barrage of blue language that was on the increase in the high-ceilinged barroom, which is popular with residents of Bolton Hill and Reservoir Hill and nearby Maryland Institute College of Art students.
"I thought we needed a little civility around here," said Carback, who came up with the idea of the cuss bucket, which is actually a large plastic pretzel jar with a sign taped to it: "Mount Royal Tavern Cuss Bucket. 25 cents a cuss."
But while customers pay 25 cents a word, bartenders pay a stiff tariff of a dollar per profanity.
John Corun, the bar's manager, confesses to being far too colorfully profane at times and not thinking before opening his mouth.
"I've almost used up a whole paycheck," he said with a laugh.
The money collected goes to charity. "We collected $110 in three weeks, which we donated to the SPCA," said Carback, sitting at a table with his partner sipping a tall drink. "My thought was: 'Be an animal, then help the animals.'
"We empty it when it looks like there's getting to be a lot of money in the jar," he said.
The bar owners are happy to take suggestions from customers as to what charity might be a worthy recipient.
"Some people walk in and, before ordering a drink, drop a buck in the Cuss Bucket right upfront," said Kozak.
John Lewis, a longtime customer, likes to think that he was the inspiration for the Cuss Bucket.
"I've put a lot of money in the Cuss Bucket. More than I care to admit," said Lewis, who admitted to being "high-spirited" and not being quite able to surrender his use of off-color language.
The words that will get you in trouble at the Mount Royal Tavern are the same ones that comedian George Carlin called the "seven words you can never say on television."
If you don't know what they are — and because this is a family newspaper — you'll just have to look them up online or take your chances by dropping one of these verbal no-nos at the tavern while sipping a cold one.
However, Kozak was eager to demonstrate several examples of the new euphemisms hobbled together by fast-thinking customers to stand in for the more commonly used good old Anglo-Saxon swear words, saying that he hears "bull poop" a lot.
"We have some people who stop midstream and think of something else. It shows real imagination when it comes to not using those old terms," Carback said with a laugh.
"We think if you don't use those words at home or work, then why here?" he asked.
Who are the most profane, men or women, at least in the Mount Royal Tavern?
"Some of the ladies or women are the worst offenders," Carback said without hesitation.
The jury is still out on whether the Cuss Bucket has been a success.
"It's an uphill climb," Carback said, laughing.