Covid-19 World Experience Series: The clouds are parting

Clonakilty native Julie O’Brien Grodewald, who owns a bar in midtown Manhattan, The Junction NYC, continues writing in a series of letters from New York City, which is still under lockdown. Julie is married to Stevie and they have a two-year-old daughter Izzy.

Julie outside her bar in Manhattan.

Today there was a bit of a pep in my step.

I was spending the day getting ready for our big open tomorrow…Our re-launch. (By the time this is published it will be that day) Not exactly how I had imagined the re-opening of The Junction a couple of months back. It would have been lovely to open the doors to the masses of people who wanted to sit and babble together on the events of the past two months or so over a hooch. Unfortunately this is not the case and we will re-open for delivery and pick-up only. I will deliver locally myself and have a courier service deliver longer distances.  

Our loan came through about a week ago and I was able to hire back two of my kitchen crew; the three of us spent the week cleaning out fridges, throwing out rotten food. Thankfully before we shut, I had told all the staff to take what they could carry and I had also delivered some of the perishables to Carol, the older lady upstairs. Unfortunately a freezer tripped a switch; that was not a pleasant cleaning experience.

We brought about 30 kegs and 40 cases of beer upstairs to be picked up. What a waste. The coronavirus pandemic stranded unused beer in stadiums, concert halls, restaurants and bars. Imagine what one million kegs looks like, millions of gallons of beer. Stuck. With no one to drink it! NY bars were forced to close ahead of two of the country’s biggest annual drinking occasions: St. Patrick’s Day and the March Madness basketball tournament. Everyone had stocked up for this. Dumping this much stale beer down a drain would have some severe adverse environmental consequences. Thankfully the government passed a law that required the beer distribution companies to pick up any stock that was ordered after March 1, from everyone who requested it, and to give credit for it. 

We gave the place a fresh coat of paint and took down the plywood that covered the windows and door. It was starting to look like home again and not the dark and dismal abandoned bar that I had become accustomed to since Covid-19 had caused us to close it all down for an unspecified length of time. 

There was a two-week period in all this where my spirits were really shot. I think we’ve all experienced it at one point or another over the past couple of months. I was panicking over my ability to pay rent, my ability, or my inability rather, to fend for my family. I even had my broker friend look into cheaper apartments elsewhere for me and then I realised that no one would give us a new lease without proof of income…and we had no paystubs, no work. I didn’t have much in savings, maybe enough to get us through a few months, but then what? The pub was going to be losing money, not making it for quite some time. Myself and my husband’s unemployment finally came through nine weeks after filing for it. I can’t explain the relief I felt. A piece of the burden lifted off my shoulders. I hadn’t lost total faith in the government yet.

NYC is getting a bit better. We are on the other side of the apex and our numbers have been going down steadily every day now for a while. We were obviously one of the worst hit places with coronavirus so it’s good to see that. I just hope that we don’t get a second wave. Some of the rest of the country has started opening up, a little preemptive I think, but their general populace is becoming impatient and there has been rioting. Their numbers are rising again.

The numbers here? I’m not even sure anymore. We’ll read all about them later in history books. I stopped watching the daily ‘breaking news’ reports every day. It was too depressing. However, I have to giggle when my daughter points to the TV, cups her face in her hands and says “Oh no Cuomo’s on!” Yes, she’s two, and she knows who the governor of New York is. She also knows who the NYC Mayor is. This pandemic has changed so many things for our children. Yesterday, I had to stop Izzy from running to catch a ball that another child had thrown in our direction. I found this so sad. She has no siblings and no interaction with any other children. 

Two-year-old Izzy

New Yorkers have been tough and smart and obedient for the most part through all of this. For a city with such a dense population, social distancing is really difficult. We’ve done pretty good overall and I am proud to call myself a New Yorker. 

We will see what tomorrow brings. I hope we will get some business in what seems like a deserted section of midtown Manhattan. 

This is the story of so many others.  No matter who we are or where we are, this is affecting our minds and our lives in similar ways. We are all still waiting for the rainbow…I hope the sun comes out and shines through this storm soon. 

Sunrise on 39th Street pre Covid-19

The Junction is open for pickup, and delivery with a 1.6 mile radius. Hours of operation are Tues-Fri, 12pm-8.30pm.

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WCP Staff

WCP Staff Writer

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