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McGuinness’s taps into spirit of St. Paddy’s Day

Even a muggy St. Patrick’s day couldn’t keep Sunnyside regulars out of McGuinness’s Saloon.

Local bar-goers enjoy a pint

At the corner of Queens Boulevard and 45th place sits McGuiness’s – a tiny hole-in-the-wall Irish joint. The place was well decorated for the festivities. Green Christmas lights were strewn across the premises, corned beef was served at the typically drinks-only bar and bountiful irish accents drowned out the traditional music playing in the background. The men’s room is to the left of the bar, as a sign clearly denotes, “Men to the left ‘cos women are always RIGHT.”

When you walk into the bar, the first chair is typically occupied by Séan Gorham. For the 25 years McGuinness’s has been open, he has been sitting in that same seat.

When asked why this was his favorite bar Gorman simply said “because it was across the street” before giving his serious answer. It’s because Marie McGuinness makes everybody feel comfortable.

McGuinness immigrated to this country from Donegal in 1987 and moved out to Queens with her husband Brandon McGuinness in 1990. They had worked in the service and bar industry priorly and had always wanted to open a place of their own together. Brandon passed away in 1996, just under a year before the bar that is his namesake opened.

Marie McGuiness wearing green for St. Patrick’s Day

While that bar has its fair share of clientele from Ireland, Marie McGuiness described her customers as “the league of nations” and speculated that even though it was St Patricks Day, the bar had about 20 people from different countries in there.

“I want customers to feel that this is their home away from home – no matter what country in the world they’re from. We have the best bartenders in the world. I want every customer to feel welcomed. If I go into a bar, whether it’s in any country, I would want to feel as welcome as people would make feel here. I always say a woman should be able to walk into any bar alone, set up at the bar, and chat to the bartender about sports or whatever,” McGuinness said.

And the approach has worked.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Marie struggled to keep the bar afloat. The restrictions placed financial stress on her business but as soon as the options for outdoor dining opened, her crew of regulars sat outside every weekend, even in the snow and crummy weather, in order to help support their favorite bar.

Joe Mennicucci has been regular with his with Kim Hirsch for as long as they can remember. He agrees with McGuiness about the bartenders being the best in the world. Before there were cell phones, he used to pay the bartender five to ten bucks every time the bartender would tell Mennicucci’s wife that every time she called that he wasn’t at the bar.

“It’s been open 25 years since February 13,” McGuinness said. “Hopefully, it will be open another 25 years, I’ll be walking around with my cane.”

Campaign flyers and fisticuffs

It was just another day on the campaign trail for Curtis Sliwa.
The Republican candidate for mayor and some members of the Guardian Angel were meeting with voters at the San Gennaro festival on Friday night when things got a little out of hand.
As the group passed a bar in Little Italy, they came across a fight that had broken out and immediately rushed in to stop the fracas. We’ll just let Sliwa describe the scene for you:

“I and Guardian Angels were walking through the San Gennaro festival when all hell broke loose in this gin mill, this bar behind us. Women were swinging, winging, someone grabbed a bar stool and ‘boom’ over the head.
“The Guardian Angels came in, they had to push, they had to restrain. It was an all-out battle pouring into the streets. Ironically, even though there were hundreds of people watching, nobody intervened. So the Guardian Angels had to get control of the situation, even though windows were busted out, even though we were really threatened to the point where people were going to get stabbed or seriously injured.
“Then about 20 minutes later, the cops came. Reactive, not proactive. We don’t just campaign in the streets, we patrol the streets. When I’m mayor, we’re gonna make sure thing like this don’t happen at all anywhere in the city.”
Say what you want about Sliwa, there’s never a dull moment when he’s around. At the very least, Sliwa in charge at City Hall would be gold for penny-a-liners like ourselves. The copy would write itself!

We’ll raise a glass to that!

In a sign that things are starting to return to normal, drink lovers were finally able to return to their favorite haunts on Monday as the ban on bar seating was lifted.
Thirsty patrons packed the city’s watering holes, the first time they were able to knock back a drink bellied up to their favorite bar in over a year.
When announcing the return of bar seating last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo also said the curfew on food and beverage establishment would be lifted by May 31, with most capacity limits ending on May 19.
Patrons are still asked to follow social distance guidelines, but it’s a start.
And Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that the city would fully reopen on July 1, just eight weeks from now. He said the city is making incredible progress in beating back COVID-19.
Many city residents continue to get vaccinated, and New York reached its lowest COVID rates since October over the weekend, with just 1.5 percent of residents testing positive for coronavirus.
This should be great news for the struggling restaurant and hospitality industry. But after a year of on-again, off-again closures, restarts, curfews and capacity limits, it’s going to be a long time before these struggling business owners fully recover.
In the meantime, there is more than $28 billion in pandemic relief grants now available through the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Online application opened Monday at noon. Restaurant owners can apply at restaurants.sba.gov.
The program will provide funding equal to pandemic-related revenue losses. The maximum grant size is $5 million for restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups. The minimum amount is $1,000.
Recipients are not required to repay the money as long as funds are used by March 11, 2023.
Between the city reopening and these federal grants, hopefully the hospitality industry can get back on its feet and put the 300,000 New Yorkers employed in these businesses before the start of the pandemic back to work.

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