Irish bars around the Big Apple faced an unprecedented reality Tuesday on St. Patrick’s Day — normally one of the biggest drinking days of the year — amid the coronavirus pandemic gripping the city.
“It’s sad. I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Elena Zeoli, 56, the general manager of Donovan’s in Bayside, Queens as she stood in the totally empty pub Tuesday morning decked out in green with Irish music blaring from the bar’s speakers.
“By now everyone is here, dressed in green, having a pint before jumping on the train for the [St. Patrick’s Day] parade [in Manhattan],” Zeoli said. “The bar would be packed. This is ridiculous.”
Zeoli said that 41st Avenue – the block where the pub is located – “doesn’t even smell like St. Pat’s.”
“This whole block smells like corned beef and cabbage, normally,” she said. “Today, it smells like bleach.”
In an attempt to stem the spread of the virus, the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade was postponed for the first time in its more-than 250-year history, and Gotham’s restaurants and bars were ordered closed as of Monday night except for takeout and delivery orders.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, said Monday that the State Liquor Authority is issuing new regulations for bars and restaurants to sell alcohol to be consumed off-premises.
After Tuesday, Donovan’s will close its doors for the foreseeable future, according to Zeoli.
“It’s too much overhead to keep it open for two and three takeout orders a day,” the bar manager said.
The more than two-dozen bars in the Queens area along Bell Boulevard remained closed on St. Patrick’s Day and “half of them will not open again,” Zeoli claimed.
“St. Patrick’s Day is vital. We use it to pay our annual sales tax,” Zeoli said. “We do in one day equivalent to two of our best weeks from the rest of the year.”
In other Queens neighborhoods like Woodside and Sunnyside, many bars were closed with some citing COVID-19 in signage on their doors.
Midtown bars like Connolly’s Pub and Restaurant, O’Lunney’s, and O’Donahue’s that typically would be open for business bright and early for boozy revelers were shuttered Tuesday.
“No, we are not opening, my boss says no,” said Vicente Galindo, a 10-year worker at Connolly’s.
Galindo added, “My boss is sad because he is not opening … Last year, this time, there would be lots of people come to drink, come to celebrate, but nothing this year.”
“We are losing a lot of money,” said Galindo, who noted that he usually looks forward to working on St. Patrick’s Day because he gets paid more.
“I have a wife and two children,” he said. “I have rent to pay. It helps.”
One of the city’s oldest bars, McSorley’s Old Ale House in the East Village, was open Tuesday and serving alcohol and grub to-go.
But owner Gregory de la Haba said the restrictions are “going to be devastating.”
De la Haba said on a typical St. Patrick’s Day, “the line would be down to the corner,” but on Tuesday “there was no line.”
“Business is down 100 percent,” said the owner, who added that the 19th century pub will “keep these doors open as long as we can.”
Peter O’Connell, 72, the owner of Molly’s on Manhattan’s 3rd Avenue said he was forced to lay off the bar’s 70 workers since he’s unsure of when he will reopen.
St. Patrick’s Day, O’Connell said, “is the nest egg that’s missing coming into the summer for me.”
“This is the security blanket, financially, that I’m missing,” O’Connell said, noting that if the bar has not reopened within two months he is going to be in “deep trouble.”
The Wicked Monk in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn also took advantage of the new liquor-sales rules by slinging $5 Guinness and corned beef from an 8-foot-wide to-go window as Irish music blasted over bar speakers.
“We’ve owned this bar 26 years. We had to try something different!” said co-owner Mick Dorgan, 57.
Bartender Chris Cody, 42, said the 3rd Avenue pub was “trying to celebrate to the extent the law allows.”
“It’s bringing smile to people’s faces – Guinness and corned beef,” Cody said.
By the afternoon more than two-dozen revelers had gathered on the street outside the bar and were openly drinking booze from the to-go cups.
Meanwhile, roughly two dozen people with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade board of directors and committee members marched up Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in the rain Tuesday morning to the sounds of bag pipes in order to keep the tradition alive.
The group “marched and preserved the history of the Parade,” they wrote in an Instagram post.