Like many other bars around the city, McSorley's Old Ale House has been shuttered since mid-March when the city shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This is now the longest the historic bar has been closed in its entire 160+ year history—but starting today, it will finally reopen to serve food and growlers to-go.
EV Grieve reports that the bar will have a limited menu of burgers, sandwiches and hot dogs available to order, as well as beer. As part of the new state-mandated take-out and delivery-only rules, restaurants and bars were given the green light to temporarily sell alcohol to-go; lawmakers are now proposing legislation to make that permanent even after the pandemic ends.
The bar will be open every day from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. over the next two weeks, and then reassess based on the city's reopening plans.
"We’ll implement all the necessary precautions like wearing face masks, and we've already installed four hand sanitizers with one at the entrance," longtime bartender Gregory de la Haba told EV. "Doesn’t quite go with the decor of the aged and charred wood but for now who gives a shit. Safety first."
Many restaurants and bars which shutdown at the start of the crisis, including some of the city's best-reviewed restaurants, have begun cautiously reopening for takeout and delivery recently. That includes places like Peter Luger's Steakhouse, which had previously never done delivery before.
Toby Cecchini, a co-owner of two bars in Brooklyn including The Long Island Bar on Atlantic Ave, wrote an op-ed for the Times today about the perilous state of the restaurant and bar industry, and in particular, about the longterm problems they face even when the initial restrictions are loosened in the state:
Protocols already being readied in most states will limit indoor business to 50 percent of prior capacity — even down to 25 percent in some states — and restrict seating to safe distances of six feet. That would give me four lonely seats across the entire run of each of my bars, with guests dotted here and there slipping their masks down to sip at a drink, and perhaps three of our five booths permitted to be occupied. And all of this in a time of depressed economic activity, when most customers will already be leery of re-emerging and congregating, and have far less leisure income to spend. That is quite effectively a death sentence. It would result in revenues of 25 percent or less of our normal operation, which in this business, even given a popular spot doing quite well, yielded razor-thin margins to begin with. There is, quite simply, no possible way for anyone to make those numbers work.
This is a problem de la Haba told EV he is also very concerned about: "The uncertainty into the unknown is what’s driving most business owners mad," he said. "And the 25 or 50 percent occupancy will be the nail in the coffin for most — especially if it lasts more than one month."
In January, McSorely's longtime owner Matty Maher, who bought the storied bar in 1977, died of lung cancer at the age of 80. The legendary spot is now run by his daughter, Teresa Maher de la Haba.