There are more than 6,000 bars in New York City. About 200 of them get regular press. This column is about the other ones. Robert Simonson, a journalist and blogger of the drinking life, and the originator of the "A Beer At..." column, takes a peek inside Gotham’s more anonymous watering holes, one by one. Follow him on Twitter.[Jenny Adams]
There are two taps at Connie O's. One says Coors. One says Coors Light. They both draw Coors Light.
"I know it says Coors, but it's always Coors Light," said the blonde woman behind the bar with the careworn face. If you want something else, there's Bud Light in bottles. If you want something other than that, go find another bar.
"$1.50," said the woman. $1.50? I looked at my watch. 9 PM. Not happy hour. I laid down two soft, crumbled dollars and got two quarters back. Hell, Coors Light ain't worth much, but it's worth that.
The woman retreated to her high, cushioned chair under the television. "You want to watch something else," she asked her two customers, an unsmiling, unmoving woman wearing a pony tail and a blank stare, and a sweatshirt-wearing retiree who had spread a bunch of dollars on the bar to make sure the mugs of Coors Light never stopped coming. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree ceremony was suggested.
The channel was switched on both the TVs behind the bar, but to two different networks. So the program was never quite in sync. What Al Roker chirped on one set, he chirped three seconds later on the other. A Mariah Carey-Justin Bieber Christmas video premiered. 41-year-old new mother Carey, dressed in fur-lined Santa mini-dress, all but did a lap dance for the virginal Bieber. No one at the bar blinked, though the ponytail did say, "She just had twins." Michael Bublé lent his harmless head tones to "Silver Bells," back up by a African-American sextet. "Who's that singing with him?" asked ponytail. Roker said. "Naturally 7" repeated the bartender, "whoever the hell that is." "Who they singing with?" asked the retiree. "Michael Bublé," said ponytail, somewhat surprised. Pause. "Who's that?" said the old man.
"You got a tip at the end of the bar," the retiree informed the bartender. "No, that's Byron," she corrected. "He's coming back." Byron did come back. He didn't have long to walk to get to the end of the bar, where he sat alone and said nothing. Connie O's is a snug joint, with low ceilings and a very short, but very old, wooden bar. Video games, a pool table, and boxes and boxes of Coors Light make the Greenpoint dive seem even tighter than it is. And two small windows at the front give the room a bunker-like feel.
But Connie O's is not without spark, especially this time of season. The owner goes all out with the Christmas decorations (as, apparently, she does for every holiday). The lights in the lanterns are red and green. A shelf opposite the bar is laden with Santa and Snowmen statuettes. Lights and tinsel are everywhere you look. Even the bricks outside are painted green (they're always like that). It's damn cheery. As far as real holiday spirit's concerned, Connie and Rockefeller are pretty evenly matched.