By Jessica Easthope
The locks on Yer Man’s Pub are being taken off after nearly a year. Even though it may never be back to what it was like before the pandemic, the weight of the world is off Jimmy O’Reilly’s shoulders.
“It was great. It was fantastic,” said the owner of Yer Man’s Pub, Jimmy, about his first day back on Friday, Feb. 12.
When Jimmy closed his pub in mid-March, from the outside it looked like nothing was going on. Yet on the inside, Jimmy was working – building barriers and partitions by hand, making his bar safe for indoor dining – if and when that day would ever come.
It finally came on Friday, days after an announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“We’ll open 25% indoor dining, New York City, Friday, before Valentine’s Day,” Gov. Cuomo announced on Feb. 8.
Yer Man’s first big weekend was a success. Jimmy says people are still afraid to come out, but the hard work he did while the bar was closed made it so much safer.
“People have come in here and they feel so safe here because of the barriers and the barriers at the bar,” Jimmy said, “and because the employees are protected, people have said to me ‘I feel so safe coming in here.’”
And customers said there’s nothing better than being back.
“It’s nice to see somebody in person versus talking on the phone or having a Zoom conference,” said Kevin Kehoe, a regular customer at Yer Man’s.
“It’s like the kids going back to school, you need to get out, you need to have a good time and be among friends,” said Lois Mungay, another regular customer.
For 11 months Jimmy’s family business survived on take-out orders. But was hemorrhaging money just to keep the lights on. He said it was almost too late.
“I got the first PPP,” Jimmy said. “I just got the second one, thank God, because it was getting down to the wire. Without it, I would be gone next month, this month maybe.”
But it’s not too late – even in their darkest days, Jimmy and his family knew that if they had the chance, they would make a comeback.
“I feel like no matter what it is going to bounce back, I do feel like the minute people come back in, it’s like right back being at home again,” said Sinead O’Reilly, a waitress and bartender at Yer Man’s, and one of Jimmy’s three daughters. “Like clockwork, everyone jumps back into the same rhythm.”
Jimmy says if he can help it, Yer Man’s will always be a place to come for good food, good drinks and a good time. He says his faith and his bar are two things that won’t fade away.