New York City has hundreds of bars. There are local bars, neighborhood bars, cocktail bars, dive bars, beer bars, wine bars, tiki bars, Irish bars, hooka bars, gay bars, oyster bars, tequila bars, gin bars, western bars, hipster bars, sports bars and gastropubs just to name a few. You get the picture. There are a lot of freakin' bars. A bar for everyone and they come and go constantly.
I have a history with bars. My father was a bartender for as long as I can remember until his passing at the age of 42. As a child I spent many hours at the bar while my dad worked. I remember the camaraderie and laughs. My dad made it seem so easy and relaxed. Most days nothing happened, but it always seemed like an event at the bar. There were good people and some real "prune heads". That childhood experience with the bar has stuck with me my entire life. Sometimes a bar can feel like home.
While living in NYC I have had some favorite bars and I have seen them all change in some way. Places close or change style and staff. I return to a bar for several reasons. The number one reason is the bartender. If I don’t like the bartender I’m not going to spend much time there. I’ve been known to spend many hours at a bar. A friendly mellow bartender can really make people feel at home. The second reason to return would be the clientele. Good interesting people keep the bar fun. It’s always nice to walk into a bar and recognize other customers and pick up the conversation where you left off. The third reason would be music and atmosphere. Interesting music is a must. Fourth would be a good single occupancy bathroom. And last would be food.
In our 18 years of life in NYC I’ve been a regular at several bars and even lived above a bar for a year. I don’t recommend living above a bar unless you love the bar. Luckily for us we did. We lived on the top floor above Nelson Blue in the South Street Seaport area. We were regulars and spent lots of time and money there. Great bartenders, friendly staff, great neighborhood people, beautiful atmosphere, music, food and a good clean bathroom. Nelson Blue was the only New Zealand themed bar in NYC. It was named after Nelson, New Zealand the home town of the lead bartender and New Zealand transplant Pauli Morgan. The Seaport was hit hard by hurricane Sandy and most of the bars and restaurants were flooded. We moved from there 11 years ago, well before Sandy hit. Pauli left last year and the bar has recently changed to something new. We were also regulars at a bar called Meade’s. Meade’s was one of our all time favorites. I have a lot of great memories of time spent hanging out at Meade's. Meade’s was a local's bar. It was a no frills, New Yorker's bar. It was also a dog bar. Dogs were welcome. We made some good friends there, human and canine. Meade’s also had significant damage from Sandy. It stayed open for a year or so after Sandy, but has since closed.
Many other bars have done the same and closed down. Some of my favorites over the years, The Dew Drop Inn, Cafe Noir, Mars Bar, Circle Rouge, Raccoon Lodge, Red Bench, Merc Bar, Winnies, Milady's, The Room, Butterfly and Puck Fair have shut their doors. Some knew it was coming others we watched die a slow death. Many closed because the rents are jacked up so high they are pushed out. Some others go because they tear down the building for a high rise. Others go because of poor management. The neighborhood bar is going the way of the dodo in New York.
There are still some bars around that have the feel of a dive bar/neighborhood bar. Jeremy's in the Seaport, Puffy's in Tribeca, Randolph on Broome in Nolita, Spring Lounge on Mulberry and Belle Reve in Tribeca are a few that have that feel depending on the day and time you go. And that brings me to the reason I'm writing this post. One of our favorite bartenders is leaving one of our favorite bars. Belle Reve is losing Leah. She will no longer be bartending after this weekend. It has been three years since Belle Reve opened and she has been there from the beginning. She’ll be missed. I'm sure we'll see her from time to time, but my Fridays will never be the same. I have had some really good Friday afternoons hanging out at Belle Reve with Leah and the regular Friday afternoon crew. The regulars on Friday are a great crowd. A lot of good conversation with Leah holding court. As I have said before, a good bartender is the number one reason I return to a bar and Leah is top notch. Jen and I are getting older. Our tolerance for young drunken crowds is very low. Belle Reve on a Friday-Saturday afternoon is our speed. If we are having some drinks, day drinking is our thing. It's a mellow working class and local crowd until around four o'clock happy hour starts. Great music, great food, large windows for people watching, interesting regulars, good bathrooms, and Leah behind the bar makes for a great Friday afternoon.
We have been through the loss of some bartenders before. Most recently and heartbreaking was the loss of Travis at Puffy's two years ago. He moved on to Gloucester, Massachusetts, which by the way is a great town. It's not uncommon in NYC to loose one or two bartenders a year. It hurts for a while, but you have to power through it. The mourning period can last a few months as you find a new place to spend your time and money. But you have to keep it together for the young ones. As we get older we realize how good it was and how lucky we were to spend time with such good souls. Remember the good memories, great conversations and friends to the end. Leah will be bartending across the East River in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and we may not see her as often but we'll still send goofy texts and remind her to read my blog "every Friday." On Friday, April 26, 2018, we will be sitting at the bar hanging out with Leah for what will probably be the last Friday afternoon drinking session. We will laugh and cry, have some drinks and celebrate our time with Leah. Always remember these are the people that make life and New York City tolerable. CHEERS!
Please Check out Jen's Blog for more information on bars and restaurants. www.in-nycsite