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New York drinkers in high spirits as bar seating returns

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New York’s pub patrons were in high spirits on Monday — when bar seating finally returned after being off-limits for more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Big Apple barflies were buzzing about the state lifting the COVID-era mandate as they flocked to their favorite haunts.

“Glory be to God, New York City is back,” said Michael, a 47-year-old lawyer sipping a vodka and orange juice at Killarney Rose in the Financial District.

“I forgot how much I missed drinking here and chasing women,” he noted. “I feel like I’m back in college for the first time trying to remember how to talk to women.”

He was one of a handful of patrons at the Irish pub around 7 p.m., including a 37-year-old named Jessie, who slung back a shot of peanut butter whiskey and jelly-flavored liquor.

“This is the happiest I’ve been in a year,” she said over the sound of “Linger,” by The Cranberries.

Tracy Haag, 46, a regular of at least five years, said it was “refreshing” to see folks back at the bar.

“It’s the beginning of the new old normal,” she quipped.

May 3, 2021 marked the first time in over a year that customers in New York City have been able to drink while sitting at a bar.
May 3, 2021 marked the first time in over a year that customers in New York City have been able to drink while sitting at a bar.
Steven Hirsch

Owners of restaurants and bars devastated by the pandemic had been pushing for an easing of the restrictions, including the state’s midnight curfew.

When announcing the return of bar seating last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said that he would be lifting the food and beverage curfew entirely by May 31. Most capacity limits will also end May 19.

At least one establishment, however, St. James Gate on 81st Street and Broadway, will wait to open bar seating until all COVID rules are lifted and patrons no longer have to socially distance, a bartender there said.

Some bar patrons also said Cuomo’s moves came a little too late.

“The damage has been done. We lost a year,” said Jimena Salinas, 47, as she drank Mezcal in the East Village.

Still, the dual language teacher and Mexico City native was excited to be back at her regular joint, Mona’s on Avenue B and 14th Street.

“I came in and I wanted to sit at the bar. That’s a big thing,” she said, noting how long it had been.

Jimena Salinas (right) was disappointed it took so long, but is glad to be back at Mona's.
Jimena Salinas (right) was disappointed it took so long, but is glad to be back at Mona’s.
Steven Hirsch

Bill Raftery, 65, owner of Malachy’s Donegal Inn, one of the oldest bars on the Upper West Side, was also in good spirits.

“I was excited to wake up and come in today, it’s been a while,” Raftery said as he served about 10 regulars at around 2 p.m. “I hope this is the beginning of going back to normalcy.”

One of the daydrinkers, Michael Abbondante, a 71-year-old neighborhood butcher, said the return of bar seating was “great” but, “it’s too late. It should have been sooner.”

The regular of 20 years, who was having a glass of wine, said he’d been coming back to Malachy’s on a weekly basis since the state OKed indoor dining.

Marianita Rodriguez, another patron, was just glad to be back drinking at her local watering hole, noting that she suffers from asthma.

“I love it. We all love it. This is the best thing ever,” she exclaimed.

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